Tactical Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Sunderland

After a disappointing 1-0 loss to Leicester at White Hart Lane on Wednesday, Spurs look to bounce back against 18th-place Sunderland. The Black Cats beat Swansea 4-2 on Wednesday with former Spurs players playing major roles: Kyle Naughton was sent off for the Swans in the 36th minute, Gylfi Sigurdsson scored a penalty, and Jermain Defoe netted a hat-trick. 

While Sunderland sit in the relegation zone, goal scoring hasn’t necessarily been the problem. They’ve scored 26 goals this season, more than Liverpool, Crystal Palace, and Stoke, and one less than Manchester United. The issue is that the Black Cats bleed goals. Sunderland has allowed more goals than any other team in the Premier League (41). And only Newcastle has conceded more shots.

Like Leicester, Sunderland has played with little possession this season – an average of 43.2%, second lowest in the Premier League. But the similarities don’t end there, Sunderland has one of the highest long balls as a percentage of total passes in the league (19.3%). Like the two Leicester matches, expect Spurs to maintain possession with Sunderland looking to score on the counter.

Vito Mannone will likely be in goal for the Black Cats, having replaced Costel Pantilimon in the starting XI. However, Mannone’s job could soon itself be in jeopardy, as the Club has recalled outstanding 21-year-old keeper, Jordan Pickford from a loan with Preston. Manager Sam Allardyce seems to see Pickford as the future goalkeeper and may begin to give him Premier League matches very soon (he started against Arsenal in the FA Cup).

With former Spurs captain, Younes Kaboul unavailable with a hamstring injury, look for Wes Brown to line up next to John O’Shea in the center of the defense. At left back is Patrick van Aanholt, who has scored twice and assisted twice this season. Billy Jones is at right back.

The first band of midfielders consists of Lee Cattermole and Yann M’Vila. M’Vila provides a significant amount of cover for the back line, leading Sunderland in both tackles per match (3.3) and interceptions per match (2.7). But M’Vila can also get forward effectively, only Adam Johnson has created more chances per match.

The next of midfielders could be composed of Fabio Borini, Jeremain Lens and Adam Johnson. Johnson is Sunderland’s primary chance creator, leading the Club in assists (5) and chances created per match (2). The majority of these chances come in the form of crosses. Leading the attack for the Black Cats is former Spurs forward, Jermain Defoe. Defoe has scored nine goals this season, though a third of those came through his hat trick against Swansea on Wednesday. 

Mousa Dembélé came on as a substitute against Leicester, and I would expect the Belgian to return to the starting XI against Sunderland, replacing Tom Carroll in the defensive midfield. Other than Dembélé, though, the rest of the XI could very well remain unchanged.

The Spurs Projected Goal Difference is +1.48 in favor of Spurs, heavily favouring the Lilywhites in Saturday’s match.

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