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Stats: Scoring the second goal makes a huge difference - Sunderland need to start doing it again

It goes without saying, but Sunderland need to start scoring the second goal in games again as they strive to turn around their disappointing recent form. Is it easier said than done?

Undoubtedly, if you score two then it gives you an even higher chance of winning the game.

- Jack Ross on the Roker Rapport Podcast

For once, I think the Sunderland manager and all Sunderland supporters are united in agreement about something. It seems obvious to say it, but scoring once a game just isn’t going to be enough to secure a top two finish.

But, if we can score two or more goals per game while maintaining a similar defensive record, we will definitely go up automatically - it’s as simple that. We’ve all been saying it (we need to finish teams off, score the second goal, etc) and after crunching the numbers, we can see just how massive the impact of scoring more than once is.

We’ve managed to score in all of our 29 league games this season, which is an amazing effort. However, in more than half of those games (16/29), we’ve only scored once and returned the following results: 4 wins / 10 draws / 2 defeats.

That means we’ve taken 22 points from a possible 48 at an average of 1.4 points per game - the kind of form which would see us hovering around mid-table. In contrast, in the 13 games where we’ve scored 2 or more goals, the results have been: 11 wins / 2 draws / 0 defeats. That means we’ve taken 35 points from a possible 39 at an average of 2.7 points per game - the kind of form which would see us 10+ points clear at the top of the league.

Sunderland AFC

But what about improving the defence?

Hang on - we’ve recently sneaked a 1-0 win at home to AFC Wimbledon and we were only minutes away from another 1-0 win at Oxford at the weekend - one goal is enough if we keep clean sheets.

In theory yes, but keeping a clean sheet every game is a big ask in a league where you’re only ever one poorly defended set-piece, one moment of magic, one cruel deflection or one refereeing clanger away from conceding.

We also have to bear in mind that AFC Wimbledon have the worst attacking record in the league by some distance (only 22 goals from 31 games).

While it’s not difficult to calculate that we’ve won 100% of games in which we’ve kept a clean sheet, the reality is that we’ve only managed eight clean sheets in the league all season.

Sunderland AFC

Football isn’t played on paper

No it isn’t - this is all theoretical and football is rarely predictable (as any punter who puts on a Saturday afternoon acca can tell you).

We could put together a run of six straight 1-0 wins and all concerns about not scoring enough goals will disappear. Alternatively, we could end up scoring twenty goals in the next six games, draw them all 3-3 or 4-4 and we’ll all be cursing our attacking style of play.

However, if we only go by this season’s results alone, we’re significantly better at scoring 2+ goals per game (45% of games) than we are at keeping clean sheets (28% of games).

For Sunderland, attack is the best form of attack.

Sunderland AFC

Moving forward (quickly and purposefully)

As long as we get the points we need to go up, it won’t matter whether we get them by scoring goals for fun or by putting in flawless defensive performances (or ideally a combination of both).

So, while the question of ‘do we need to score more goals?’ is easy to answer, the question of ‘how do we go about scoring more goals?’ remains a puzzler and is open for debate.

Any ideas?

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