Teams and Tactics
Moyes named an unchanged team from last week’s draw at Fulham in a 4-2-3-1 with O’Neill’s shape 4-4-1-1 with James McLean on the left and Adam Johnson right. Hatchet man Lee Cattermole was ruled out so Larsson moved into the middle alongside Colback. In defence, Rose came in at left full back with Gardner on the opposite flank.
Mirallas / Naismith
We started the game really well, as the below pass completion visual shows, particularly in the 16-30 minute period when Mirallas was on fire on the left flank cutting in, with Pienaar shifted to the right.
The Belgian was committing players and making things happen, attempting a whopping 7 dribbles. Crucially, teams are fearful of his pace and will stand off him which pushes us further up the pitch. Naismith is no like for like replacement; the Scot has his qualities but doesn’t have the pace or trickery for take on’s – in comparison he made no dribble in the 60 minutes he was on the pitch after Mirallas injury.
Blues dominated ball, Sunderland counter
O’Neill’s side unsurprisingly sat deep and looked to counter attack, enabling us to dominate possession with 60% of the ball including 74% final third possession. Our pass completion in the final third of 82% vs Sunderland’s 62% enabled us to create 16 chances to our visitor’s 6.
With Mirallas off, Sunderland were now pushing a bit further up the pitch and they had their most positive spell of the game in the 31-45 minute period that followed Mirallas injury as the below forward passing visual shows. It was the only spell Sunderland really showed any ambition in the game and led to the opening goal, with Leon Osman guilty of switching off at the back post.
Despite his Movember mussie giving him the look of a sex offender, Osman again had his cigar on passing wise, making the most passes and crucially posting 85% completion in the final third with 60% of his passes forwards . His passes to Baines and Pienaar were the most used combinations in the game. Crucially he was instrumental in the comeback with his runs from midfield supplying Fellaini for both goals.
Moyes tactical switch
Sunderland were defending rigidly on their 18 yard line with O’Shea and Cueller forming a robust axis in the centre to deny us space. Moyes brought on Velios for Neville and withdrew Fellaini into a deeper role. Interestingly, the strikers played very wide with Jelavic left / Velios right and Fellaini looking to run from deep to exploit the space in between
If we look at the Sunderland positions in the spell before the substitution and then in the 73-80 mins period that followed (and produced both goals) the previously small gap between O’Shea and Cueller now becomes very stretched with O’Shea in particular drawn out of defence into no-mans land. With more space to manoeuvre the goals duly followed.
Our powers of resolve where once again on show when for the sixth game on the spin we took something from a game we trailed in – a Premier League record. Crucially, despite never really hitting the heights performance wise of previous drawn games we were able to eek out a win. It was particularly pleasurable given Arsenal’s slip at home to Fulham and Spurs defeat which gave us a cushion on our main rivals for 4th spot.