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Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Talking Tactics: How did Beale enact Sunderland’s gameplan at Hull?

Mick Beale looked to make amends for his festive woes with a win against Hull City — how did tactical screening keep the Tigers in their cage?

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Opposition Lineup

Liam Rosenior opted for one change from Hull’s defeat to Bristol City, with Regan Slater coming in to replace Christie at Left-Back and Lewie Coyle shifting over to the right-hand side of the defence.

Hull lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 system with the intent of playing quick transitions and passing sequences into their forward line.

Hull Line-Up V Sunderland (H)

Sunderland Lineup

Beale opted to make two changes from his debut appearance at the Stadium of Light albeit one was forced, with Jenson Seelt slotting in at right back, and Bradley Dack coming in for Abdoullah Ba to make his first start in a Sunderland shirt since the 5-0 home victory over Southampton at the start of the season.

Sunderland also opted for a similar shape with Dack & Jobe alternating positions when in and out of possession for Sunderland.

Sunderland Line-Up V Hull (A)

Timid Start

Similarly to how Sunderland started against Bristol City in their last away game, both teams spent the first 15 minutes trying to figure one another out and neither tame gave much away.

It was clear that Beale had a gameplan in mind, like that of Dodds against Leeds by the pressing triggers deployed by Sunderland in the early stages.

Pressing from the Front

As mentioned above, Beale set Sunderland out in a formation that on paper mirrored Hull in possession, but out of possession formed a 4-2-4 shape with Jobe advancing alongside Dack to create a flat four forward line.

The idea behind this was to screen Hull’s deep-lying playmakers in Seri & Morton from receiving the ball on the half-turn and force the ball wide to progress it further forward.

4-2-4 Build Up
Total Football Analysis

Surrendering Possession

Likewise, to the way Sunderland played against Leeds, Beale was comfortable allowing Greaves and Jones to hold the ball, with neither Jobe or Dack initiating a team press unless they saw an opportunity of an under-hit or misplaced pass, with neither centre back being particularly ball dominant.

By holding their positions as screeners, Hull were forced into long spells of slow passive possession and were forced to rotate into a back-three to provide an outlet.

As soon as this happened, Sunderland advanced 10 yards and allowed Neil & Ekwah the opportunity to stay touch tight on Hull’s midfielders.

Sunderland Defensive Actions Map v Hull (A)

Smothering Seri

Fans may remember Jean Michael Seri who controlled the midfield in the Good Friday 4-4 draw between the two sides last season.

Once of Football Manager fame as a jack of all trades, Seri was touted by some of Europe’s most elite clubs in yesteryear however, now in his 30’s still showcases his composure and passing range making him Hull’s main threat from midfield.

By screening him out of the game, tactically Sunderland were able to prevent Hull’s main ball carrier from getting into the game and it really showed.

The heat map further above showcases how Neil & Ekwah smothered Seri and prevented him from making any real influence.

Sunderland v Hull City - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Michael Driver/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pierre Ekwah Baby

After some unjust jeering from home fans against Coventry, Pierre was back to his usual self against the Tigers, despite having a somewhat quiet game, he completed 45/49 passes and 100% of his dribbles whilst linking up well with Patrick Roberts throughout the game.

Despite normally operating in a more advanced role, Dan Neil also completed 3/4 successful tackles and 46/53 passes even chiming in with an easy assist, showcasing that Sunderland do have two hugely talented young midfielders at their core.

Sunderland Passing Map V Hull (A)

Jack Raymond Clarke

Despite being on somewhat of a drought in recent weeks, Clarke was able to show why one moment of brilliance is all that’s required to be a match-winner.

The young winger beat Coyle on numerous occasions completing 6/8 dribbles and produced a lovely strike into the bottom corner in his trademark way with an xG of only 0.13 in the game.

To his credit, similarly with Roberts, both wingers had to expend most of their energy on the defensive side with Clarke completing 4/4 tackles in the process.

Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Interestingly, Clarke’s goal came from a quick transition and release from Dan Neil that allowed Clarke to be isolated 1v1 with his fullback for the first time in game, something which teams avoid happening at all costs for obvious reasons.

It may only be a minor tweak, but by allowing Dan Neil the chance to progress the ball and divert the extra defender’s attention, Beale’s attacking patterns of play may just be seeping through.

In Conclusion

Much talk was made of Beale’s ability to coach more astutely in the attacking third — we may have not had much of a sample size to base things from, but in my opinion the attacking rotations in both the Hull & Coventry games have been more rehearsed and fluid despite a lack of overall finishing.

Beale’s appointment may still be out to the jury (myself included I will admit) but there certainly seems to be signs of more coordination in the final third.

Hull City v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

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