Sunderland lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but saw three changes to the side that lost 4-0 at Portsmouth.
Callum Doyle, Dan Neil and Alex Pritchard returned to the starting XI with Bailey Wright, Corry Evans and Leon Dajaku all dropping out. Sunderland also had several U23s on the bench, with Will Harris making his first senior appearance off the bench.
Sunderland got hammered on xG against Gillingham, but the data doesn’t reflect the context of the match.
Gillingham receiving a penalty counted for 0.8 xG, and after the red card in the 67th minute, The Gills accumulated around 1.1 xG.
These things can happen in football, but the important number for Sunderland is that we didn’t concede from open play, despite the pressure.
Average Locations in Possession
Sunderland’s possession was dictated by Dan Neil, who saw the football more than any other Sunderland player.
What is interesting for Sunderland is Aiden O’Brien - who played left midfield - drifted inside into a central role. This is the consequence of injuries and using players out of position.
As mentioned before, Sunderland relied on Dan Neil to control the football. Luke O’Nien also saw a large chunk in possession, receiving the same amount of passes as he made.
Callum Doyle had a quiet match for passing, considering his usual numbers. Tom Flanagan assumed the Doyle role, having more of the ball than his fellow central defender.
Sunderland on average faced 12.2 shots per game before Saturday’s match.
Gillingham recorded 25 shots on goal - the highest against Sunderland this season (previously 21 v Accrington Stanley). Before the red card, Sunderland had faced 12 shots in 67 minutes. After the red card, Sunderland faced 13 shots.
How good is the Hoff?
Another great pickup from the recruitment team is Ron-Thorben Hoffmann, who produced some quality saves to secure the three points. Although we signed Jon McLaughlin when we got relegated in 2018 - who I thought was a league-leading keeper - I am certain Hoffmann provides a different level of quality which is good enough for several Championship clubs.
Hoffmann makes more saves per game (3.3), compared to Burge (2.5) and Patterson (2). You may think this stat is flawed as it comes down to the defence allowing shots, but you can genuinely see without data that Hoffmann is a great keeper who made the difference.