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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Sunderland Not A Martin O’Neill Type Team

Written by on December 5, 2011 | 5 Comments »
Posted in English Premier League, Sunderland, Wolverhampton Wanderers

The Wolves – Sunderland match was high on endeavour but it did not rate highly on the skill scale. Each teams passing percentage was far from impressive with Wolves 72% and Sunderland 71%.

The passing of Wolves’ Matt Jarvis and Sunderland’s Stephane Sessegnon stood out like intelligent comments at a Republican Presidential debate.

Wolves default attacking option for most of this season has been crosses into the penalty area – so it was in this game.

Going back through the teams that Martin O’Neill has managed such as Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa you see a definite template. He often strings centre backs across the back four, he likes big forwards and often talent is sacrificed for work rate.

Set plays are emphasized and at the back and in attack O’Neill’s sides have been strong in the air. Indications from this match are that Sunderland are lacking the raw material that O’Neill usually builds from.

Wolves dominated aerial challenges winning 27 of 35.

Christophe Berra the Wolves centre back won every one of the 10 challenges he made in the air.

Nicklas Bendtner (on loan from Arsenal) is a player who will come in for some special attention from O’Neill. Bendtner is big but plays small and although he has become an extremely important player for Denmark his inconsistency and often lackadaisical attitude drove Arsenal fans to distraction and no doubt many Sunderland fans are feeling the same way. 

He offered no option in the air although he enjoyed a considerable height advantage  over both Berra and Jody Craddock, the Wolves centre backs.

On the positive side he was involved in the lead up to Richardson’s goal and for a striker his passing statistics were acceptable for a striker.

Caretaker boss Eric Black started Bendtner and Ji Dong Won in attack but rarely did the two show signs of meshing. Both dropped deep – often at the same time – and too often they seemed to be looking for the same ball.

A look at Sunderland’s record this season shows only two wins in 14 games. It also shows 5 draws and 7 losses. What it doesn’t show is that each loss this season has been by a single goal. That tells us that a slight improvement in some key areas might see a rapid improvement in Sunderland’s position.

Although O’Neill might be tempted to start his organization from the back Sunderland have only allowed 17 goals this season. If the former Villa and Celtic boss is looking for a quick turnaround he might put his emphasis at the attacking end of the field.

Sunderland actually had more shots on target than Wolves 9 to 5 although two came from Bendtner and Ji Dong Won.

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5 responses to “Sunderland Not A Martin O’Neill Type Team”

  1. J Rob says:

    Great article Bobby. Think Sunderland will definitely improve under Martin O’Neill. Given his background and passion it’s easy to imagine him re-making the Stadium of Light a tough place for opposing teams to visit.

    Would love to see Sunderland try and solve their striking problems with Andy Carroll. Larsson’s accuracy of crossing would be a great compliment to Carroll’s height and strength. Joey Barton played that role last season for Newcastle.

    Of course both he and Sunderland fans might detest this idea.

    Honestly think it would be a good fit for club and player. I don’t think anything will sway my opinion that Carroll is a square peg in a round hole at a club like Liverpool that is based on pass and move.

  2. Ed Gomes says:

    I just wonder how long it will take for O’Neill to quit on Sunderland.
    Will it take longer than he did at Villa, or will he be fired before quitting on them.

    Carroll isn;t very good, and Liverpool just accents his shortcomings. Maybe Sunderland would be a better fit.

  3. Roberto Manita says:

    Now just hold the phone there Ed. The useless CF position at Sunderland is currently being filled aptly by Bendtner. Further useless CFs, such as Carroll, need not apply. Thank you.

  4. John Bladen says:

    … stood out like …

    Well done, Bobby!

    Agree with both above, it’s hard to see how O’Neill could be more tempted by the talent on offer at Sunderland than he had at Villa. Still, it’s a manager’s job… I forget the statistic exactly, but something like 1 of 4 managers in professional football ever get a second chance at managing. O’Neill has already beaten that of course, but it does show how scarce even the less desirable jobs are.

  5. Alberta Gooner says:


    He isn’t tempted by the current talent on offer at Sunderland. He’s tempted by the dosh promised by Ellis Short, which he will use to overpay on players he scouted on MOTD. Which was a big complaint of Villa supporters about him. If you look at his signings at Villa Park (Reo-Coker, Davies, Dunne, Collins, Cuellar, Delph, Knight, Carew, Heskey, Petrov, Warnock, Beye), they all fit nicely in that profile.

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