When Dick Advocaat was reappointed as the official Head Coach of Sunderland AFC fans on Wearside rejoiced.
Having lead the club to a successful avoidance of relegation, or as the native Dutchman might say a "het vermijden van een kleverige mess" his return has been very welcome.
We have seen that Advoccat can motivate the team and implement his style onto them. A solid 4-3-3 formation seemed to be the order of the day, with a triumphant triumvirate leading the line including Jermaine Defoe, Connor Wickham and recently Danny Graham.
All well and good, but let's look a little deeper. I've been following Advoccat's career and looked into the numbers which make him the man he is. The little general, the big Dick.
Stats are a funny thing (lol). They can tell you about so much in football, whether you like it or not. They're cast iron facts on what has happened that can't be disputed.
Whilst at Zenit, Dick was a big fan of numbers. You may not know this, but his most trusted and talented deputies in the team - Andrey Arshavin (10), Victor Fayzulin (20) and Tomas Hubocan (14) all had their squad numbers for a reason - even numbers bring greater fortune in the eyes of Wor Dick. Sounds crazy, but it's true. Perhaps this is why Jordi Gomez got such a run in the team!
Away from trivialities and luck though, cold, hard numbers seem to suggest that Advocaat's famed 4-3-3 formation will bring some results and luck isn't all that needed, really.
I loved watching Zenit in 2008. My Grandad on my mothers side is from St Petersberg and he got me into it. I also got into stats, so here are some revealing numbers you may not have considered about Advocaats style of play.
When attacking in a forward left position, the three forwards flank right in order to increase the "shape of attack" as football scholars call it. It's basically getting open. However such a novel approach saw the three strikers' ACR (Actual Chance Ratio) incease by no less than 4.5% year on year, finishing his time at Zenit at a respectable 79.9%. So we can expect a great year from messrs Graham, Defoe and Fletcher.
Defensively Advocaat is a solid manager. Preferring to attack with fullbacks who aren't positioned as wingbacks, these "inverted wing forwards" as the Russians called it, account for the bulk of the chances created. Van Aanholt fits this perfectly with his pace and directness on the wing, and having this season scored a mighty 171 in SC Rating - also known as Side Completion Rating - we can expect him to be a key figure for Dick.
For Midfielders in an Advocaat system, the key is to keep the ball and use it properly. The Dutch way dictates passing and moving, however a slight tweak Advocaat has implemented is that players pass but hold a position, apart from the two flankers.
For Seb Larsson, we expect this season coming will have a big role as someone who passes then moves, however someone like Cattermole or Bridcutt maybe not. In the final seven games of the season Larsson's yards per run average was 7.8 compared to a lowly 6.5 before. Cattermole dropped significantly from 9.0 to 8.1, as is the evidence at hand.
Dick should increase Sunderland's overall win percentage too, as well as the clubs formal rating and actual stats.
Advocaat should be excellent for Sunderland and I speak not only as someone who loves Dick and Zenit and Sunderland, but as a man who loves football.
This is the one. This is Sunderland's season. It's a great testament to Lee Congerton and his council (Short, Byrne etc) that he got the man we all wanted and we will see a great team at Sunderland this season. That's something you can bet on, that.