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Talking Tactics: Just where did Sunderland go wrong against QPR? Where do I start...

Breaking down Sunderland’s tactical display on this website is just as easy as it is to play against us on the pitch these days.

Roker Report

McGeady To The Rescue

Well - we might as well get the positive out of the way first.

After Bryan Oviedo, McGeady made more touches than any other Sunderland player. Given how bad we were playing, it would have been easy for the winger to disappear from the game but he showed a good attitude to take responsibility and not let his team suffer yet another defeat.

Pretty much every passage of positive play The Lads had went through McGeady, with his highest amount of passes in the side complimenting the amount of time he had on the ball. It’s clear that we can’t be content to just rely on him to always come up with a moment of brilliance, but McGeady getting his fourth Sunderland goal (all of which have came from outside the penalty area) was the only hope we ever had in this match.

The finish was sublime and to give credit, it was a decent move to create it, with Duncan Watmore turning sharply and moving the ball along with good instinct.

There seemed to be something resembling a partnership between McGeady & Watmore, the two combining well in the first half when McGeady should have given Sunderland the lead after Watmore’s good run and perfect pass. If we can use the combined skill and pace of both players, we might have a decent attacking threat but Sunderland don’t look capable of utilising any potential strengths at the minute, so I won’t be getting my hopes up.

Whip The Ball In And Watch Us Panic

Of course we conceded from corner - of course we did. It is maddening how easy the opening goal was for QPR. It was hardly an incisive, well thought out corner - they just floated the ball in. With the ball being that close to his goal, Jason Steele either has to have the confidence to claim the ball, or the defence in front of him needs to be far more organised.

When the ball hits the net, there are only five QPR players in the penalty area, to Sunderland’s ten (including Steele). The fact that we have almost double the amount of outfield players in the box, yet still managed to give Idrissa Sylla a free header is actually quite an achievement. James Vaughan can’t escape this one without being singled out since he wasn’t just ball watching, but completely misjudged his header. If you’re going to not watch your man, you should at least be able to deal with cross coming in!

Ian Holloway’s men weren’t exactly creative after taking the lead but they kept targeting Sunderland from crosses, looking to exploit one of our biggest weaknesses. The R’s banged in twenty-eight crosses throughout the afternoon and they had seventeen shots to the home side’s nine. So once again, despite facing an opposition who were hardly dynamic, Sunderland were second best when it came to carving out opportunities.

The Midfield Goes Back To Being Anonymous

I suppose it’s always going to be difficult to create chances when the midfield reverts back barely existing. Against Preston, it looked like Lee Cattermole & Didier Ndong might have been working their way back up to the players we know they’re capable of being. There was no evidence of that on Saturday, though.

Their collective effort in making tackles only resulted in two, which is made worse by the fact that they gave the ball away a combined six times. In a two man midfield, where you’re playing with a fairly flat 4-4-2, you can’t have your midfielders under performing like that and it’s no surprise that we never looked in control of the game.

Given the impact Jonny Williams made, despite playing on the wing when he first came on, he should definitely be given a chance ahead of either Cattermole or Ndong. Williams dropped deep and actually went looking for the ball, he looked desperate to try and influence things as he buzzed around the pitch. Even the way he went up to Adam Matthews after the goal showed a canny amount of character, something which is severely lacking in Simon Grayson’s team, let alone midfield.

What Can We Do To Change It?

Our midfield has grown really stale and if Ndong/Cattermole aren’t going to be dropped, they need a third man alongside them. I’m not saying it will be an instant fix but a player like Williams, who will look to push us up the pitch, will at least give us a different dimension.

By doing that, you could have McGeady & Watmore on the wings, playing narrowly and getting inside to support our ever isolated striker. The return of Lewis Grabban is certainly welcome, as him playing alongside McGeady & Watmore means we can try to build an attack based on pace, not just lumping the ball up into the air. Simon Grayson could even bring Callum McManaman into the starting line up and give Watmore a chance through the middle, so it’s obvious that (with everyone fit) there are some options.

We need to get rid of the insipid 4-4-2 now though. Grayson has been trying it for ages now and we haven’t won since August, he has to change something rather than just repeating the same mistakes.

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