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Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship

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Talking Tactics: What did Sunderland do to get things right in the second half at QPR?

What did Tony Mowbray do to turn things around for Sunderland at QPR when we went behind? Dan Harrison looks at the data...

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Sunderland continued their fine form following the international break by travelling down to the capital and taking three points from Queens Park Rangers. Mowbray’s men have now collected 10 points from a possible 12, so how did Mowbray set his side up, and how did he react to his side falling down 1-0 in the opening stages?

Opposition Lineup

QPR Lineup Data

Gareth Ainsworth named an unchanged side from the team that emerged victorious against our North-East neighbours Middlesbrough before the international break.

He opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation utilising wide midfielders and inside forwards to their advantage. Following the dismissal of Jack Colback this shape very quickly became a 5-3-1 with Armstrong being the sole out-ball for the Londoners.

Sunderland XI

Sunderland XI

Tony Mowbray was forced into two changes from the side that demolished Southampton 5-0 due to injuries, Niall Huggins came in to replace the injured Dennis Cirkin & Mason Burstow deputising for Sunderland following a slight knock to Bradley Dack.

Mowbray adopted his regular 4-2-3-1 shape during the opening quarter of the match however, following the loss of Pierre Ekwah to a dead leg for Alex Pritchard, Sunderland’s shape changed drastically, something we’ll pick apart later on.

In & Out of Possession

In Possession Sunderland played much of the first 14 of the game as you’d expect from a Mowbray side, with Trai Hume operating in that inverted fullback role we’ve become accustomed to adding extra passing options in midfield and allowing Ba to hug the right touchline.

Huggins operated as a regular fullback and provided width on the left giving Clarke the freedom to make his usual diagonal runs inside. Burstow & Bellingham both occupied the half-spaces and gave Neil & Ekwah space to operate within the centre of the pitch.

Following Pritchard’s introduction however, Sunderland quickly shuffled the pack and dropped Jobe slightly deeper alongside Neil. This gave Pritchard the freedom to operate within the half space whilst Burstow pinned the QPR defensive line back.

Out of possession, Sunderland defended in their typical shape with Clarke & Ba dropping deeper to provide defensive cover out wide and Jobe forming a tight midfield three in the middle of the pitch.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Following Jack Colback’s straight red card on the 21 minute mark, the numerical advantage allowed Sunderland to occupy much more possession and QPR gradually sat deeper and deeper however Sunderland, especially in the first half struggled to create much space in such a compact QPR half of the pitch.

Second Half Shape Change

Following a late and rather fortuitous equaliser from a deflected Jack Clarke strike, Sunderland went into half time drawing 1-1 with QPR, given the circumstances Mowbray opted to make another attacking change bringing off Niall Huggins for Patrick Roberts.

Due to Sinclair Armstrong operating as QPR’s only attacking player, Sunderland could afford to change their shape to push for a winning goal and in doing so, created a rather unorthodox attacking shape.

Sunderland’s Average Second Half Positions
Lineup Builder

Many fans may have encountered this image circulating around after the game showcasing Sunderland’s bizarre shape that they adopted during the second half in order to exploit the extra man they had on the pitch.

Due to the numerical advantage, Mowbray didn’t shy away from going full throttle in order to turn one point into three. This led to an almost reverse diamond shape forming with Roberts & Aouchiche (Previously Burstow) adopting inside forward roles slightly behind Jobe in order to exploit the half-space in QPR’s back 5.

In doing so, both players were able to act as springboards for the wide players and Jobe, allowing quick interchanges of play and 1-2’s to occur in such a compact QPR low block.

Sunderland Passing Map v QPR
McLachApp Match Data

This was seen to great affect for Dan Ballard’s goal as Pritchard was able to use Roberts in a give-and-go despite there being very limited space to exploit within QPR’s tight defensive line.

Quick interchanges been Roberts/Ba and Clarke/Aouchiche were also prevalent as the latter combined before Ba slammed home Sunderland’s third goal of the afternoon to secure the three points.

Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Roberts completed 33/38 passes and Aouchiche 11/15 during their second half cameos, creating 4 chances between them which showcases their effectiveness in this role, especially given the most passes played by any one QPR player was Morgan Fox who only managed to completed 28/38 passes all afternoon.

On The Whole

Bringing the three points back from the Capital aside, the choice of substitutes and proactive thinking from Mowbray is something fans have sometimes asked questions about during his tenure at Sunderland.

Seeing Mowbray dynamically make changes to rescue points for Sunderland is a welcome sight and something fans can be pleased to see given the wealth of options available to Mowbray with a fully fit squad.


Barnesy’s Blog: Jack Clarke is simply unplayable!


Roker Roundtable: How can Tony Mowbray make best use of his wider squad?


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