Sunderland vs Spurs: scouting report, tactical analysis, preview (a)

Sunderland vs Spurs is how we return to Premier League action, so we breakdown Dick Advocaat’s Black Cats.

A trip to the Stadium of Light is never easy, but if you can turn up the pressure on the Black Cats’ weak spots then anything is possible. So, what can we expect and what should we be on the lookout for in the Tottenham tactics for Sunderland vs Spurs this time?

Where Sunderland concede

Last season Dick Advocaat guided Sunderland to safety by having them play a very defensive 4-3-3 in which they were compact, resolute and strong. They didn’t ship many goals, but also didn’t score many either, often edging sides by the odd strike against the run of play.

This term, with the reins from the start of the season, Advocaat is trying to play more attacking football, but this is leaving them increasingly open. They are scoring goals, but also leaking chances at an alarming rate.

The problem for the Black Cats is where they are conceding chances, which come in two main areas.

The first is in the full back zones, as Advocaat wants these players to be much more aggressive in getting forward. When one goes the other will often sit and this has left the space on the open side rife for attacking.

This, from Norwich’s recent visit to the Stadium of Light, highlights Sunderland’s classic error in shape. As Norwich win the ball and counter, Sunderland’s front three are out of the game, their central trio are way to narrow and compact, but right back, Billy Jones is caught upfield, out of position and away from the rest of his back four.


RB Jones is caught upfield plus MF trio are too narrow.

This has seen Sunderland concede an alarming amount of chances, and goals, from the right back area. In the Black Cats’ last home Premier League match, Swansea created a host of chances from attacking the right back zone.


Swansea chances against Sunderland.

In Sunderland’s last game away to Aston Villa, the Villains also went heavily at, and scored, through the right back area.


Aston Villa chances against Sunderland.

The majority of chances have been coming through the right back zone, but it also happens to left back Patrick van Aanholt. This image is from Swansea’s goal in their game with Sunderland, as the left back is the one caught this time.


LB van Aanholt caught upfield and MF trio too narrow.

Again the front three are out of the game as the ball goes in to Andre Ayew, but the midfield trio are once more extremely narrow and in an awful defensive position, almost in a vertical line. The ball went from Ayew to Naughton and then through for Bafetimbi Gomis to fire home, highlighting another Sunderland issue, the centre backs.

The second area of weakness is the centre back pairing. Dick Advocaat has chopped and changed, but these two have been first of all left exposed by their midfield and secondly by Younes Kaboul.

As we know from his time with Spurs, Kaboul is not the defender he was many years ago before all of his injury troubles. The Frenchman is strong, but his problem at Spurs, and still continuing at Sunderland, is his positioning. Kaboul is a player that likes to set the position of the defensive line and have others get in-line with him. That means he can get caught either far too high or too deep when paired with a centre back partner that doesn’t know him very well.

This is from Sunderland’s game with Leicester where Kaboul is yards deeper than the rest of his back four. This allows Okazaki to find Mahrez, who would’ve been offside if Kaboul had pushed up alongside his back four. Mahrez could then play in Vardy as Kaboul makes it easy for the Algerian to pick out his team mate by playing everyone on.


Kaboul far too deep playing everyone onside.

This has been a problem for Kaboul and with his speed now reduced by his injuries, it affects not only his game but also those around him. Sunderland have looked better since the steadying influence of John O’Shea has returned, but they are still likely to give up goals and chances through the centre with Kaboul’s positioning.

The Tottenham tactics for Sunderland vs Spurs should focus on attacking the zones beyond the full backs, especially in the right back zone. Nacer Chadli will probably get the nod on the left for us, but Son Heung-Min could be a shrewder choice here. The South Korean’s style to look to run in-behind in wide areas looks ideally suited to this match.

In the middle, we really should be looking to pull Younes Kaboul around. Expect Harry Kane to drop off the front and others to burst past him as we look to expose the shaky centre back’s positioning.

Press for success

One thing I’ve always felt you have to do against any Sunderland side is press them high up the park and force mistakes. This is especially true this season with the way teams have been easily able to get on there back four.

Norwich were very good in hounding the Black Cats in their 3-1 win up at the Stadium of Light a few weeks ago. The Canaries recovered the ball 15 times in the Sunderland half.


Norwich recover the ball 15 times in the Sunderland half.

On opening Day, Leicester were also very active in the Sunderland half of the field, winning the ball back 13 times and breaking quickly.


Leicester recover the ball 13 times in the Sunderland half.

Pressing the Black Cats in to mistakes and errors should form part of the Tottenham tactics for Sunderland this Spurs this time. A quick start will knock the Mackems on the back foot and could turn the crowd against them, which has been a recurring problem.

Set pieces

Set pieces will form a key part of Sunderland vs Spurs this time. We’re only four games in to the new Premier League season, but the Black Cats have scored twice and also conceded three times from them.

Leicester and Norwich have already found the back of the net from a set play routine. In Sunderland’s last Premier League match, Aston Villa earned a penalty after Lee Cattermole took a ride on Scott Sinclair at a corner.

Sunderland are also a threat to score from set pieces as well. They notched a consolation effort from a corner against Norwich, whilst Yann M’Vila’s curling free kick saw them open the scoring at Villa Park.

Set pieces will be key in the Tottenham tactics for Sunderland vs Spurs especially with Mauricio Pochettino’s love of the empty near-post corner routine. This sees him leave the front corner of the six yard box vacant and a player, usually Eric Dier, will bolt in here in order to meet a driven-in ball.

Sunderland vs Spurs outlook

After being mauled by Leicester and Norwich, the Black Cats have steadied the ship, drawing their last two Premier League matches. They will be difficult to beat in front of a passionate crowd, but if we go about the game in the right way then we have every opportunity to take the three points.

The biggest obstacle for us so far this season hasn’t been the execution of the tactics that Mauricio Pochettino deploys, but in being clinical at finishing off chances. We sit sixth in the Premier League for fashioning opportunities, but are way down in seventeenth for goal conversion rate. This has to change.

Sunderland vs Spurs prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Spurs.

Sunderland vs Spurs betting

Fancy a flutter? There are a few value bets to be had on the game.

Spurs to win 2-1 at 8/1 with BetVictor.
Nacer Chadli anytime goal at 3/1 with Betfair.
HT/FT: Draw/Tottenham at 4/1 with 888sport.

What do you think about the game? How would you line-up?

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7 Responses to Sunderland vs Spurs: scouting report, tactical analysis, preview (a)

  1. anotherwisemonkey 11th September 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    The result is the most important thing here. Any longer without a win and the pressure will ramp up.

    Hopefully Mason can take advantage of the good opportunities he’s been creating if he gets the nod in the number 10 role. I hope Son starts on the right, but suspect we might have to suffer another Lamela start. Let’s hope Dier can continue his excellent form in the DM role, helping us to another clean sheet.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 11th September 2015 at 9:17 pm #

      Spot on. Like to see us playing smart in order to get the win. Have to take our chances, but also hold on to any lead.

    • YouShubes 12th September 2015 at 8:43 am #

      IF Lamela does start, think the speed and directness of Son, esp with Rose on the overlap will be crucial. Having that speed and the ability to play throughballs, will open up a bit more space for him.

      The EPL, and his injuries have taken away the speed advantage he had at Roma. Still think he would be better served by Trippier on his flank

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 12th September 2015 at 5:16 pm #

        Would like to see Trippier given a start just to see what he can do. We’ve really lacked crossing support from the right and am curious to see if he can be the one to provide it.

        • anotherwisemonkey 12th September 2015 at 8:05 pm #

          I’m gagging for Trippier to start but expect he’ll be used in the cups until such as time as he forces his way into the Premier League XI, à la Kane. Pochettino seems to ask players to earn the right to replace the man in possession of the shirt. Aldeweireld came straight in but there was no dominant CB playing alongside Vertonghen last season. Consequently, the injuries to Dembele and Eriksen may give Son an opportunity to start that he wouldn’t normally have been afforded, but I don’t think Pochettino will drop Chadli for him.

          Most likely, Trippier, Wimmer, Alli and N’Jie will all start against Qarabag next week. Fazio is likely to partner Wimmer with Dier being rested. Just my observation of the way Pochettino picks his teams. Time will tell…

  2. james 13th September 2015 at 9:43 am #

    Mark, could you explain a bit more about why Jones is out of position in your first picture?

    Our system relies on the aggressive positioning of our FBs, and occasionally the sorts of gaps that we see Jones leave here are evident in our play. I’ve put this down to the risk/reward analysis of MP, but wondering if there’s more to it…

    If it was Walker in the picture instead (just before possession is lost), would MP be expecting him to be somewhere else?

    Or is Jones out of position because he’s not been asked to play that way?


    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th September 2015 at 10:42 am #

      Good observations James. Advocaat wants his full backs to get forwards but he isn’t as aggressive with them as Pochettino for two reasons. Firstly, Advocaat plays with wide forwards, usually Defoe and Lens, that he likes to stay wide most of the time, only cutting in when the ball gets very high up the pitch. This means he doesn’t need his full backs to get forward and provide attacking support as much as we do as everyone is not drifting towards the middle of the pitch. Secondly, Advocaat likes his team to play through balls rather than cross. Sunderland have attempted very few crosses this season, only Liverpool and Stoke have attempted fewer. Therefore he doesn’t need full backs for crossing support.

      This style of play means that they don’t need to bomb their full backs on like we do. Jones was caught high, but also ball watching, which was how Norwich attacked the space in-behind him. The problem for the full backs in Advocaat’s system is compounded by the central midfield trio which are very narrow, this leaves the full backs with no cover. This is unlike our system where the defensive midfield duo look to drop in and cover that space when the full backs have gone upfield.

      I hope this makes sense. It’s a couple of differences between Advocaat’s and Pochettino’s systems but can make a world of difference.