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‘What Do The Stats Say?’ - How can Sunderland exploit Fleetwood’s most glaring weaknesses tonight?

We take a look at what the data says about Sunderland and Fleetwood ahead of this evening’s game. Why might Barton’s side struggle despite having such good recent form?

Fleetwood Town v Portsmouth - Sky Bet League One Photo by Kevin Barnes - CameraSport via Getty Images

What type of side are Fleetwood?

In truth, Joey Berton’s side seem to be a difficult side to pin down in terms of their style of play. Mentioning the name Fleetwood Town probably prompts the assumption of a team playing 4-4-2 with Ched Evans and Paddy Madden up front, but truthfully they haven’t used that formation in any of their last five games - instead using a mixture of 3-5-2, 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 formations.

Furthermore the stats show how Fleetwood are neither an out-and-out possession side nor a direct team focused on defending deep and looking to hit the ball long. In truth, they seem to be a mixture of the two, and are a team happy to build attacks at a reduced pace but without the high-pressing associated with sides who tend to play a possession-heavy style.

This conclusion is backed up by the mixture of stats which describe Fleetwood’s game. Whilst they tend to score most of their goals from longer periods of possession - the average duration of Fleetwood’s goal scoring attacks is the fourth longest in the league and lasts an average of 20.5 seconds or 6.4 passes.

However, counter to the types of attack which Fleetwood score from, looking at the possession for Fleetwood’s all round game shows their level of possession in a match is relatively average (51%) as it the average length of their passes: 21.1 metres, which puts them 12th in the division.

This slightly lower level of possession than would be expected at first glance of Fleetwood’s goal-scoring stats is supported by their main defensive strength - the success rate of challenges made when defending where they have the highest success rate in League One, although the number of challenges is below the average number for the league - perhaps reflecting their position in upper-reaches of League One.

Where will the visitors threaten?

Despite tonight’s visitors’ style of play being difficult to ascertain, the areas from which they will threaten are not.

Barton’s side have scored over half of their goals (52%) from attacks which go down the right flank, and with right back Lewie Coyle - who has registered six assists and attempted the sixth most crosses in the division this season - paired with right winger Wes Burns - who averages one key pass per game, has attempted the fourth most dribbles in the league and the eighth most crosses - it is no surprise to see this significant bias to attacks which build up on Fleetwood’s right flank.

Thankfully for Phil Parkinson’s side, like Oxford just a few weeks ago, Fleetwood offer their biggest threat down the side of Sunderland’s defence that is the most secure - with only 3 goals being conceded from attacks originating down the Black Cats’ left side.

All of these crosses which originate from Fleetwood’s right side would not explain why they score most of their goals down this wing if it they didn’t have a striker capable of putting the chances created in the back of the net, and Paddy Madden - who is the league’s third-top scorer with 15 goals (none of which have been penalties) has been doing just that this campaign.

He is surely the man Sunderland’s back three will have to keep an eye on, although that could also have been said about Jonson Clarke-Harris who barely got a sniff from Ozturk and co. at the weekend - hopefully that will continue this evening.

Finally, in stereotypically Joey Barton style Fleetwood do offer a significant threat from set pieces. And, whilst their 16 goals scored from dead-ball situations puts them a commendable sixth in the league, only Rotherham have scored more goals from corners than Fleetwood’s ten since the beginning of the season.

That being said, just like their bias to attacking down the right-flank, Fleetwood are again showing how their attacking strengths line up to Sunderland’s defensive strengths since Parkinson’s side are just as stereotypically strong at defending set pieces and have conceded only ten goals from such situations. In fact, only three sides have conceded fewer set-piece goals - and more specifically only Bristol Rovers have conceded less than Parkinson’s side’s three goals from corners this campaign.

Overall, Fleetwood are a good side in brilliant form but if Sunderland play to the best of their ability the matching up of both sides’ strengths will undoubtedly lead to a tight game from which Sunderland can emerge as winners.

All Stats from InStat

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