- Sunderland’s dominant performance against Queens Park Rangers showcased their possession-based attacking football, recording impressive stats such as 72% possession and 22 shots on goal.
- The absence of midfielder Pierre Ekwah due to injury will be a significant loss for Sunderland, as he has become a vital player in their midfield with strong physical and technical attributes.
- The likely replacement for Ekwah against Blackburn is Alex Pritchard, who brings creativity to the team but lacks the same energetic and robust performances. This could potentially affect Sunderland’s ability to win the physical battle in midfield.
Sunderland continued their charge up the Championship table last Saturday afternoon with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Queens Park Rangers.
The hosts had to deal with the wrath of Tony Mowbray’s possession-based yet purposeful attacking football and the contrast in styles showed as the Black Cats recorded 72% possession, 407 more accurate passes, 22 shots on goal and an xG of 2.78, as per Sofascore.
A relentless and domineering performance at the Kiyan Prince Foundation stadium preceded a 5-0 thrashing against one of the favourites, Southampton, so when they travel to Blackburn on Wednesday night, Sunderland will be confident of making it three consecutive victories.
The cliché of not changing a winning team is often banded, however, Mowbray will have to go against this old chestnut as midfielder Pierre Ekwah was forced off in the 14th minute after sustaining a dead leg.
How has Pierre Ekwah performed this season?
After playing a bit-part role for Sunderland last season, featuring on 14 occasions in the Championship, Ekwah has become a vital cog in Mowbray’s machine this term.
One of the first names on the teammate sheet, the 21-year-old has gone on to form an indispensable partnership with fellow youngster Dan Neil at the heart of the Black Cats’ midfield, speaking highly about the Frenchman’s in-demand physical and technical attributes when asked about him previously.
Neil said: “Yeah brilliant. He’s dynamic, he’s really strong, he’s got a great left foot on him.
“He’s been brilliant in training the last few weeks and I said to him you are going to get your chance because he’s been brilliant in training.
“With the international boys being away, Ed playing on Tuesday and it being a quick turnaround for him, this was his chance and I think he took it. I thought he was brilliant.”
Stamping his mark on proceedings superbly since being given regular opportunities to impress, Ekwah has featured in all of Sunderland’s matches so far, averaging 7.3 ball recoveries per game, 1.7 tackles, recording a pass completion of 90%, via Sofascore, and even scored two well-taken goals in the victory over Southampton.
Ahead of their trip to Ewood Park, Mowbray is hopeful that he could be fit, although it seems unlikely. As such, Sunderland will desperately miss the 6 foot 2 titans presence in the engine room without having a direct replacement for his strength, power and all-action displays, leaving Mowbray with a crucial decision to make.
Who could replace Pierre Ekwah vs Blackburn?
In his pre-match interview, Mowbray confirmed that his side had been hit with a double injury blow, leaving them without two of their most influential figures, Bradley Dack and Ekwah.
While Jobe Bellingham can continue in his advanced midfield role in the absence of Dack, the task of choosing someone to play in the double pivot is much more difficult to resolve, with the likely candidate being Alex Pritchard.
The 30-year-old performed admirably after coming on and replacing Ekwah against QPR, placing 86% of his passes accurately, crossing eight times, blocking two shots and making two tackles, as per Sofascore.
Pritchard is more readily known for the creativity he brings to the party, rather than the energetic and robust performances of Ekwah, but he can still do a job of keeping it neat and tidy in that deep-lying role while letting Neil do the dirty work, that is unless Bellingham drops into the deeper role and lets the former operate more advanced.
In the Championship last season, the £7k per-week Prichard has showcased how crucial of an influence he can have in the final third, ranking in the top 20% for progressive passes, the best 16% for assists, the upmost 5% for shot-creating actions and top 5% for key passes when compared against his positional peers per 90, via FBref.
If he can bring those creative metrics to the party against Blackburn, he will be a threat on the counter-attack but without having the energy and dynamism of Ekwah, they could lose the physical battle against the likes of Lewis Travis and Adam Wharton.