Sunderland v Blackburn
The Stadium of Light becomes the venue for Martin O’Neill’s latest managerial adventure while his opposite number, Steve Kean, continues to wobble on the high-wire.
Twice this season Yakubu has been a match winner for Blackburn – first earlier in the season against Arsenal and then last week against Swansea.
The Nigerian striker scored on 4 of his 5 shots in a 4-2 win.
Blackburn has still to win a game away from home this season and Kean’s record of four wins in 28 games means that last week’s win will have a very short shelf live.
Only 8 wins in this calendar year (three at home) cost Steve Bruce his Sunderland job although tossing away leads and losing the last two matches was the coup de grâce.
Defensively Sunderland are in ok shape but goal scoring. The first inclination is to be fingers at the strikers but on closer examination the cause may relate more to chance creation than conversion.
Sunderland conversion rate season to season has actually improved but they are creating around 33% less scoring opportunities than last season. Too much emphasis on a combative central midfield perhaps?
Nonetheless with five draws and all seven losses by a single goal O’Neill’s task of showing immediate improvement may not be as difficult as it first may seem.
Stoke v Tottenham
On Friday’s Fox Soccer Report I commented on how Stoke are using Peter Crouch differently than Spurs did.
Crouch stats – Spurs / Stoke
It would seem Stoke are using Crouch more as a chance converter than a chance creator ala Spurs.
But scoring goals continue to a challenge for Stoke – only West Brom and Wigan have scored fewer goals this season.
As in past seasons Stoke continue to be a second half side. However, they have led at half time in three games this seasons including last two games against Blackburn (3-1 final) and Everton 1-0.
Only five of Stoke’s 14 goals this season have been scored from open play.
Perhaps Stoke will pick up on a Spurs tendency to leak second half goals – 12 of 16 goals conceded have come in 2nd forty-five minutes. Only once so far this season have Spurs trailed at the half.
Although Scott Parker has been praised widely for his performances this season Assou Ekotto and Kaboul have also been excellent.
Spurs have averaged more shots on target per game this season than any other team in the Premier League.
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