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Poyet can lead Sunderland to the most unlikely top-half finish

| 04.02.2014

A third-straight Premier League win over their archest rivals gives ample cause for wild celebration among Wearsiders, though Gus Poyet’s sterling work at Sunderland runs much deeper than securing local bragging rights.

In fairness to Poyet’s predecessor Paolo Di Canio, the ousted Italian was faced with a fixture list laden with Premier League big-hitters at the beginning of the season, which certainly contributed to his managerial demise.

However, while this argument is perhaps a little tenuous in its origins, Poyet’s influence in lifting Sunderland from rock-bottom in mid October to 14th ahead of their home game against Hull and securing their first cup final appearance in 22 years; is crystal clear.

In all the vital areas, Poyet has improved Sunderland’s numbers and if the Premier League had begun when the Uruguayan took charge of his first game against Swansea, the club would currently be residing in ninth.

Only three points now separate the Black Cats from Aston Villa in 10th, where a ridiculous-sounding top-half finish a few months back, now looks exceptionally good value at 15/2.

While it’s clear the charismatic manager has installed bountiful amounts of belief, our more statistically minded friends at WhoScored.com reveal just how Poyet has turned the tide to an attractive possession–based style.

Sunderland have lost just once in their last nine in all competitions, dumping both Chelsea and Manchester United out of the Capital One Cup in the process.

Over that stretch Poyet has overseen a 7.8 per cent rise in overall possession stats compared to the Di Canio era, while pass completion has breached the 80 per cent mark.

Meanwhile, the confidence swilling around the Stadium of Light locker room translates to 5.3 shots on target per game, compared to 2.6 in the dark days of Di Canio.

Adam Johnson is perhaps the most shining individual example of Poyet’s tide-turning exploits, smashing home seven goals in as many games for the club and making our News.Ladbrokes in-form England XI to boot.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.