Sunderland vs. Tottenham Hotspur: Tactical Preview

It’s no surprise that four matches into the season, Sunderland sit very bottom of the Premier League. This isn’t for a lack of goals, the Black Cats have scored six, fifth most in the league and three more than Spurs. Sunderland’s poor start can be attributed to allowing 10 goals, an average of 2.5 per match. While Sunderland are likely to regress to a more modest (yet probably still poor) goals allowed per match average, defensive deficiencies abound at the Stadium of Light, deficiencies that a Spurs side in need of its first win will have to exploit.

At the heart of this shaky defence that has conceded a league-high 19.5 shots per match is a familiar face. Our captain of last season, Younes Kaboul, will likely line up beside John O’Shea–though it’s also possible that we’ll see Sebastián Coates instead. In theory, the singings of Kaboul and Coates, who joined from Liverpool, over the summer were to provide a significant defensive boost. But so far, these defensive “improvements” haven’t panned out, with the Black Cats on pace to allow 95 goals this campaign.

At left back, look for Patrick van Aanholt, a 25-year-old Dutchman who was signed from Chelsea last summer. Neither van Aanholt, nor his counterpart at right back, Billy Jones, will provide much of an offensive presence, spending the majority of their time in Sunderland’s own half. 

In goal for his second season at the Stadium of Light is Romanian, Costel Pantilimon.

The midfield trio will probably consist of Jack Rodwell, Lee Cattermole, and Yann M’Vila. Look for Cattermole to drop into a more defensive role, sitting centrally, with Rodwell and M’Vila pushing further forward. Of these three, M’Vila has contributed the most to offensive production, creating 1.7 chances per 90 and scoring once.

If the Black Cats’ defense has been discouraging, their offense has been anything but. At least for now… Despite having scored six goals in four matches, Sunderland has averaged the second lowest shots per match (8.5). Chance creation will have to increase if they want to maintain their current 1.5 goals per match.

On the left side of the front three is another former Spurs standout: Jermain Defoe leads the Black Cats' with two goals this campaign. With winger Adam Johnson still recovering from a shoulder injury, look for Jermain Lens to line up on the right. Johnson impressed in his only match this season, against Leicester, in which he created six chances including an assist, but Lens has produced as well–scoring once and assisting twice in four appearances. Up top, look for either Danny Graham or Steven Fletcher. Graham has hardly contributed to the attack this season, managing only one shot with no assists, no goals, and no chances created in 158 minutes of play. Fletcher has scored once, but has created no chances. Defoe and Lens will, therefore, be the focal points of the Black Cats’ attack.

Unfortunately, it seems Christian Eriksen will remain sidelined for Spurs–I expect Poch to deal with this in same manner he did against Everton, by placing Ryan Mason in the number 10 role. Dembélé is also unlikely, so look for Dele Alli to receive his first start in a Spurs shirt, though Lamela remains a possibility as well.

The Spurs Projected Goal Difference is +.98 in favor of Spurs. This is the highest projected goal difference thus far. In other words, this is Spurs’ best opportunity to pick up a win since the beginning of the season.