Tactically speaking - Sunderland

Take a detailed look at how Sunderland might approach Saturday's visit to the Boleyn Ground

West Ham United

West Ham United have teamed up with football statistics website WhoScored.com to preview the upcoming Barclays Premier League meeting with Sunderland.
West Ham United are keen to end their current winless run and are presented with the ideal opportunity to do so against relegation-threatened Sunderland.
The Black Cats come into the encounter on the back of a disappointing 4-0 home defeat at the hands of Aston Villa – a result that ultimately cost Gus Poyet his job.
Dick Advocaat was confirmed as Poyet’s successor on Tuesday, but could find it tough to come away from east London with a positive result in his first game in charge. West Ham have lost only one of the last nine Premier League meetings between the two teams at the Boleyn Ground.
Only a handful of teams have conceded more goals in the Barclays Premier League this season than Sunderland (43) and following the comprehensive loss to Villa.
A player in the Hammers’ ranks who could help his side add to the visitors’ woes this weekend is Aaron Cresswell.  
The left-back has been ever-present since making his summer move from Ipswich Town, making 1,306 passes in the 2,610 minutes he has spent on the pitch, four of which have led to West Ham goals.
Sunderland have developed a statistically calculated WhoScored.com weakness of ‘defending against attacks down the wings’ and it’s in wide positions that Cresswell could be crucial. Hammers boss Sam Allardyce has regularly utilised a diamond formation, with the full-backs charged with pressing forward and offering an attacking threat from deep.
Cresswell can provide this judging from his statistically calculated WhoScored.com strengths of ‘key passes’ and ‘crossing’. He has proven time and time again this season that he is tough to stop once he bursts forward.
West Ham have conceded just 15 league goals at home this season and with Sunderland having netted only eleven times on the road in 14 matches, Cresswell has the defensive ability to shut out the Black Cats attack.
*WhoScored.com is a website and one of the fastest growing in the sports industry, specialising in the in-depth analysis of detailed football data. Follow @WhoScored on Twitter.


Possible starting XI

Reveilliere           O’Shea                 Brown                   Van Aanholt
Larsson                 Rodwell
Alvarez                 Fletcher               Defoe

The formation

With a new head coach in place in Dick Advocaat, it is difficult to predict how Sunderland will line up.

With no Black Cats history to refer to, the best guess would be to suggest that the Dutchman will revert to the formation that has served him so well during his long and successful managerial career – 4-3-3.

Coaching Russia at Euro 2012, Advocaat used this formation exclusively, with the two attacking midfielders tucking in centrally to support the striker.

The system is based around fluidity in the midfield, quick, attacking full-backs and an all-round centre forward capable of holding the ball up, moving to the flanks and scoring goals.

The three central midfielders are expected to rotate freely, creating a free-flowing system that confuses the opposition.

Obviously the new manager will have to fit the players he has inherited into this shape, which may lead him to choose an entirely different approach against the Hammers!

The playing style

As mentioned above, like so many Dutch coaches, Advocaat wants his team to play attractive, effective football.

If the new Sunderland boss sticks to his tried and tested 4-3-3 system, you can expect the Black Cats to play along the following lines.

The back four will be based around two strong centre-backs whose sole purpose is to defend – Sunderland have two ready-made stoppers in John O’Shea and Wes Brown – and two mobile, attacking full-backs.

In central midfield, two players will be expected to be the workers, pressing the ball when Sunderland do not have possession, while the third will play in a deeper role in front of the back four.

Should Sunderland follow Advocaat’s Russia 2012 model, the two attacking midfielders will pull into the centre of the pitch, allowing the full-backs to exploit the space down their respective flanks.

Obviously, managing a national side the Dutchman arguably had more talented ball-players at his disposal, but he still possesses a number of technically gifted individuals at Sunderland.

The likes of Ricky Alvarez, Adam Johnson and Jordi Gomez could thrive under Advocaat’s guidance, while the injured Emanuele Giaccherini would also have been a useful player in such a system.

The players

With a completely clean slate, Sunderland’s players will no doubt have given it their all in training this week with the aim of catching Advocaat’s eye.

While he may have arrived with some preconceptions about the Black Cats’ squad, the Dutchman may be loathe to change too much in the space of a few days, personnel-wise. On the other hand, having been thrashed 4-0 at home by Aston Villa last weekend, the 67-year-old could start from scratch. As such, predicting Sunderland’s starting XI is virtually impossible.

Costel Pantilimon could be replaced by Vito Mannone in goal, while right-back Anthony Reveilliere’s position could come under threat from Argentine Santiago Vergini or forgotten man Billy Jones.

In the centre, O’Shea and Brown have been virtually guaranteed starters this season, but Advocaat could change things up and bring in Uruguayan Sebastian Coates or move Vergini into the middle.

In midfield, Poyet had brought in Liam Bridcutt from Brighton & Hove Albion, but Lee Cattermole is suspended so the Scot should keep his place.

Ahead of him, Sebastian Larsson and Jack Rodwell will likely fill the other two central midfield positions.

Up front, an educated guess will be that Steven Fletcher will start as the centre forward, with either Johnson or Alvarez or former Hammer Jermain Defoe in support.