This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
Sunderland succumbed to a fourth defeat in six matches on Tuesday in what was, on the whole, a torrid display, but the performance of Tom Flanagan was a rare cause for optimism.
Leicester City U21s proved too much for the Black Cats, and their clinical edge on the night was exactly what Phil Parkinson’s side lacked, as they mustered just four shots on target despite having 59% possession.
A lack of creativity up-front is a familiar story at the Stadium of Light, but what may be more worrying to the new boss is that many of the fringe players failed to deliver when they were given an opportunity to shine.
While Laurens De Bock was tidy in possession with 87% pass accuracy and frequently found players with his seven successful long balls, it was Flanagan who was most robust in defence, as highlighted by his SofaScore rating of 7.1.
The centre-back has found himself out of the first-team this season, featuring primarily in the cups following the summer arrivals of Joel Lynch and Jordan Willis, but if he puts in more performances like the one on Tuesday he will make a good case for his inclusion.
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As per his stats from SofaScore, it was a complete performance from the 28-year-old, and the only concern of note was his sloppiness when passing, but that is an area of his game which can be influenced by Parkinson’s instructions.
Aside from that, his long balls forward helped to put Sunderland on the front foot, and in fact he has averaged a higher number of long passes per game than Willis has in the league this season.
His average of one interception per league game is also higher than the 25-year-old’s, which is a surprise given he has usually only featured as a substitute in League One.
That, along with his performance last night, shows that he could be a positive addition to the side, particularly when one considers that Sunderland’s best results have come with him in the team.
He was present for the League Cup wins over Sheffield United and Burnley, even scoring in the latter, and if the Black Cats’ defensive woes continue – which they have away from home – then Parkinson should thoroughly consider recalling him to the starting line-up for league matches.