This game between Sunderland and Ipswich Town was played in 11 round of EFL League One. Both teams are in leading group, that’s why it was very important for the hosts to win this match. Ipswich Town arrived to the Stadium of Light after two 1-0 wins in a row. Sunderland won their last away game against Gillingham. So, let’s look at our tactical analysis.
Sunderland coach Phil Parkinson chose a 5-3-2 formation with two strikers. Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert chose a 4-2-3-1 formation with centre-back Mark McGuinness, on loan from EPL side Arsenal FC. Also, it’s necessary to notice, that left winger Keanan Bennetts, on loan from Bundesliga club Borussia Mönchengladbach, started on the bench. The next step of our analysis is to look at how Sunderland tried to break the defensive structure of the guests.
Sunderland offensive phase
As it was mentioned earlier, Parkinson chose a 5-3-2 basic formation. In order to progress the ball forward, Sunderland used 3-5-2 and sometimes a 3-2-5 structure. It depended on the location of the full-backs. This offensive structure was very good to fight against the 4-4-2 and 4-4-1-1 formations of Ipswich, because it helped to use the width of the field.
Sometimes, the Ipswichplayers set in motion high pressing, but it was too dangerous. It caused a big gaps between defensive lines, that’s why the high located Sunderland full-backs got a lot of time and space to do something dangerous. We can see it on the next picture.
It’s necessary to notice, that Lambert tried to close the centre of the field as strong as it could be. Usually, if 4-2-3-1 is the basic formation, teams try to use 4-4-2 in defensive phase of the game. Here we can see, that guests used a 4-4-1-1 formation in order to close down defensive midfielder Grant Leadbitter, who was responsible for build up and the ball moving through the centre. It was a very good tactic. This situation can be seen in the next frame.
The next step of our analysis is to look at how Sunderland played in defensive phase and how Ipswich tried to do a build up and positional attacks.
Sunderland defensive phase
Parkinson chose a 5-3-2 basic defensive structure. Sometimes it was turned to 5-3-1-1 or 3-5-2. When Ipswich had a positional attack, the hosts used 5-3-2, but there were situations when one of two forwards closed defensive midfielder Andre Dozzell. So, it was too hard for the guests to do a typical tactical movement. When the defensive midfielder goes down to settle between two central defenders and two full-backs go higher to increase using the width of the field.
Also, it should be mentioned, that both teams tried to close the central area. So, Ipswich tried to find a chance to progress the ball forward through half-flank space or use the activity of fullbacks. It will be good to see it in the picture below.
Sometimes, Sunderland’s full-backs did a high pressing movements to deny using this activity. Also, it caused a lot of 1vs1 situations, which was very dangerous for the guests.
Doing such pressing movements usually isn’t always possible during the all game time. So, there were situations, when Sunderland’s full-backs didn’t rise higher. The defensive structure of the hosts was typical 5-3-2. As it was mentioned earlier, two forwards were responsible for closing defensive midfielder. Three central players closed the central area and didn’t create unnecessary movements, which could be able to unbalance defensive structure. Due to this fact, the central defenders of the guests got chances to make progressive runs.
Other important tactical and statistical observations
When Ipswich’s defensive midfielder Andre Dozzell was sent off in the 70th minute, Lambert changed a defensive structure to 4-4-1. After this, the hosts started trying to use the width of the field more often. Also, they made a decision to go forward more boldly, because the score was 1-1 and they had a numerical superiority. Then they had a chance to score from penalty kick. Grant Leadbitter didn’t disappoint his team and made the score 2-1.
Let’s take a look at the things, that statistics can give us. It’s surprising, that Sunderland had low PPDA stats in this game (16.3 PPDA mean during all game).
Also, it’s very interesting to study xG stats. Sunderland collected 2.47 xG, including the penalty. Ipswich Town has only 0.56 xG. So, we can simply conclude, that Sunderland had more qualitative shot positions than the opponent. Non-penalty xG stats (1.71 xG vs 0.56 xG) can prove it.
This game was an example of typical confrontation 5-3-2 formation against 4-2-3-1 scheme. It’s necessary to notice, that both teams tried to close the centre of the field very diligently. That’s why Parkinson and Lambert allowed changes in their tactical structure, especially in the defensive phase. So, Sunderland played 5-3-1-1 formation, Ipswich Town played 4-4-1-1 scheme. Both changes of basic structures were aimed to close the defensive midfielder of the opponent.