I actually spent a bit of time looking at the game from earlier this season, when we beat them 3-1 at home, to try and work out where we can take advantage of Wycombe, and to see where we’re at our best.
I guess the one big thing we can take is that the Stadium of Light pitch is significantly bigger than the one at Adams Park, and thus, more comparable to Wembley Stadium.
During our time in League One, whenever we’ve faced Gareth Ainsworth’s team at home, we’ve been fairly successful, and that’s largely down to our ability to mix it in possession and take our chances when they present themselves.
Wycombe play with a deep defensive line, which means that there will be room to exploit in the number ten position, a role normally filled by Alex Pritchard. In fact, earlier in the season, it was Elliot Embleton who played there, and he was very effective - just as he was in the reverse leg at their place.
Another player who had a big impact was Ross Stewart, whose movement can cause devastation. He’s got a good scoring record against Wycombe, despite the fact that their defence is very good.
We know exactly how Wycombe will try to hurt us - on set pieces from Jacobson’s deliveries, and getting in down the sides through McCleary. They’ve also got Mehmeti, a competent, direct runner that likes to get shots away from range.
That said, this game will be played on a big pitch, and it’s Sunderland who will dominate the ball. Therefore, this has to be more about what we can do, and less about what they can do.
This week, I heard the lads on the ‘Not The Top 20’ podcast talking about where they think this game could be won and lost, and I think I agree with their assessment that Sunderland have to come flying out of the blocks first twenty minutes to try and gain a foothold in the game. You don’t do that by picking a defensive side and sitting back, especially not against a side like Wycombe who are unlikely to try and dominate the ball anyway.
Malc Dugdale says…
Sunderland’s style of play, and how we attack Wycombe, is critical for me.
We absolutely have to take it to them and give them thirty minutes from hell from the first whistle. If we get a goal in the first thirty, we could well batter them, as they will have to attack, and that’s when we can do even more damage.
The other question is, why would we not go flat out?
Sunderland’s supporters will probably outnumber the Wycombe fans at a ratio of about 3:1, as I’m sure a few thousand in the away end of the stadium will be Lads fans who had no other way of attending.
Across the last two fixtures, we have scored against them almost at will, and only our previously leaky defence (which Alex Neil has now solidified) prevented a six point haul, due to that sickener of a late goal for the 3-3 at Adams Park.
We have all the ability in terms of football skill, we have a manager who has more tactical nous inside his shiny napper than his opponent has in his whole wardrobe of tightly-fitted shirts, and we have VAR to prevent them from attempting to bully us off the ball.
This game has to be treated with the respect it deserves, as Wycombe have a right to be there too, but we have more than enough to win this, and with all the above factors blended in, taking this match by the scruff of the neck simply has to be the way.
And if that isn’t our approach, I trust that Neil knows better than me and we will win anyway, regardless of the gameplan he does roll out.
Let’s get this done!
Kelvin Beattie says…
I tend to agree with the previous comments on this question.
I want us to come out of the traps and use every inch of the Wembley turf to our advantage. I am sure that our first goal will lead to more, as space opens up and Wycombe’s defensive and spoiling patterns are abandoned.
One factor that I feel will work for us is VAR, as well as the game being officiated by a referee who is familiar with its application. This is crucial, because our opponents have a robust style of play and are not averse to engaging in shenanigans at free kicks and corners.
We also have the ball players to tease in a free kick or two, and VAR should ensure nothing is missed. I appreciate it applies to both teams, but I have a hunch that Wycombe will be more bothered by the use of video technology than we are.