Willis developing well
Over the course of the last several months, Jordan Willis has shown signs that he is developing into the dependable yet aggressive central defender Sunderland hoped they were signing last summer.
This past weekend’s performance against Ipswich was a particularly positive one from the former Coventry skipper, who is a large part of the reason Sunderland’s defence is currently the best in League One.
Attempting 16 challenges in the weekend’s game, both in attack and defence, Willis came out on top in 13 of his clashes with Ipswich, giving him an 81% success rate. Over the course of the season, Willis has managed to win 70% of his battles, which is a decent return, though this number has been positively trending throughout the campaign.
Defensively, Willis won 12 of his 13 (92%) battles this past weekend, highlighting his importance to Sunderland’s watertight efforts at the back. When compared to Wright’s 7 successes out of ten attempted defensive challenges (70%), and Flanagan’s 9 out of 15 (60%) it’s clear to see that Jordan Willis was on top form against a decent Ipswich side, and a large reason why the Lads emerged with yet another clean sheet.
Moving forward, Willis’ continued growth will depend on his ability to add more consistency to his game. Against Fleetwood on New Year’s Day, Willis only won 38% of his defensive duels, and against Tranmere recently, Willis managed just a 50% success rate. As such, should Willis find a consistent ability to win over 75% of his duels then he will continue to enhance his credentials as a defender potentially capable of stepping up to the Championship.
Shots on goal not good enough
At the end of the day, a win is a win, and very few people will complain with three points against a promotion rival.
That being said, the statistics from the Ipswich game reflect a worrying trend: Sunderland simply aren’t getting enough shots on target. The below chart displays the average shots on target both for and against for each League One team ahead of this past weekend’s round of fixtures.
Sunderland sit down the pecking order with a lowly 3.61 shots on target per game; this past weekend, the Lads managed a paltry 3 shots on target - though we did have 2 chances rattle the woodwork.
There has been a general improvement under Parkinson, with Sunderland managing an average of 3.85 shots on goal during his reign. But, in general, Sunderland need to do more.
If you want to be challenging at the top end of the table, you really need to be aiming for around 5 shots on target per game - as the below graphic highlights. At present, Sunderland really aren’t close to that number.
The worrying aspect is that if the likes of Gooch and Maguire struggle to craft a moment of magic then the side lack someone capable finding the goals we need.
Charlie Wyke averages around 1.87 shots per game with 40% of his chances testing the opposition keeper; Kyle Lafferty averages 2.2 with 41% on target despite limited game time, and Will Grigg wasn’t even included in our InStat stats pack...
Duncan Watmore and Antoine Semenyo average more shorts per game with 2.7 (41% on target) and 2.4 (43% on target) respectively - maybe one of those two could provide Parkinson with food for thought?
Dobson’s distribution impressive
Despite a couple of wobbly performances recently, George Dobson was in good form against Ipswich this past weekend.
Ahead of this analysis, I want to clear up two terms that will be used in the following section.
Firstly, attacking passes are considered: “a pass to a partner who is in a better position for building up an attack. Attacking pass cuts off a few players participating in defense. Attacking pass can be made forward, backwards and across.”
Secondly, key passes are considered: “a pass to a partner who is in a goal scoring position (one-on-one situation, empty net etc.) and a pass to a partner that “cuts off” the whole defensive line of the opponent’s team (3 and more players) in the attacking phase.”
In general Dobson was successful with 39 of his 42 attempted passes (93%); however, Dobson’s attacking intent with the ball at his feet was the most impressive aspect of his game.
Dobson made 33 attacking passes in the game with 31 of those finding a teammate (94%) - one of which allowed Kyle Lafferty to tee up Chris Maguire. Furthermore, Dobson tried two key passes during the game, with one proving to be successful.
It’s fair to say that Dobson has been inconsistent at times, but this past weekend the former Walsall player was genuinely impressive with the ball at his feet. Josh Scowen is breathing down the young midfielder’s neck as he eyes a spot in Sunderland’s starting eleven, but he’ll struggle to dislodge Dobson if he can keep up that level of play.