Loanee could be the Ki to Sunderland's survival

Posted by Martin Laurence,

Ki Sung Yueng Sunderland pointPA PhotosKi Sung-Yueng is at Sunderland on loan from Swansea.

Having looked doomed just a matter of months ago, Sunderland now appear to be one of the best-equipped sides in the bottom half of the Premier League to avoid relegation. It took time for manager Gus Poyet to get his message across but the Uruguayan has turned the Black Cats' fortunes around completely.

Sunderland have suffered just two defeats in 14 matches in all competitions, the last of which felt like the sweetest victory of all this season as they progressed to the final of the Capital One Cup after a dire penalty shootout with Manchester United. If that feeling of adulation could be rivalled this season, Saturday's 3-0 victory in the Tyne-Wear derby will have come close.

It was their second win of that scoreline in consecutive seasons away to Newcastle but it was a classier performance than that of the previous campaign, memorable to the neutral for Paolo Di Canio's passionate touchline celebrations in what was his first win in charge. The reaction from Poyet and the team that he put out was far more subdued, almost suggesting that they expected nothing less.

The statistics showed that while Newcastle fired off plenty of efforts on Vito Mannone's goal, Sunderland held their own in open play, keeping 49 percent of possession and completing 73 percent of their pass attempts. Their respective figures from the fixture last season were just 34 percent and 63 percent, relying on wonder strikes to defy the odds.

While Adam Johnson was on the scoresheet in both matches and has been heralded as the catalyst for their recent revival, their development as a more effective footballing side can be placed at the reliable feet of Ki Sung-Yueng.

The fact that Swansea let the South Korean leave the club on loan is perhaps a little baffling given that his superb passing ability lends itself perfectly to their possession-based playing style. Injuries in the midfield area this season have certainly meant that the Swans could have done with the 25-year old in recent matches, with a desperate run of the results having just cost Michael Laudrup his job.

CORRECT Ki Sung-Yueng pass completion craphic
Other / Whoscored.comTable representing the players with the best pass accuracy in the Premier League over the last two seasons.

Ki is an elegant footballer and may stand out as such even more in a Sunderland side that has been full of graft but lacking in craft in recent years. He misplaced just one of his 32 pass attempts at the weekend in a match that is renowned for its frantic nature. Ki has a serene quality to his game that didn't play up to that stereotype.

The fact that he was a Di Canio signing should not be overlooked, and it was possibly the one masterstroke that the Italian pulled in his short, tumultuous reign on Wearside. The former manager will have known just what he was getting when signing the ex-Celtic man, and it's proved to be exactly what the Black Cats have needed.

Last season, of all players to have made a greater than average number of appearances in the Premier League, Ki had the best pass accuracy (92.7 percent). He attempted 55.8 passes per game despite making nine of his 29 league appearances as a substitute. Indeed, of all players to have featured in at least 20 games, only four completed a pass more often (Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey, Michael Carrick and Yaya Toure).

Now with a move to a side with a far less patient approach to the game such as Sunderland, one could be forgiven for a drop in such exceptional figures. Ki, however, has maintained 91.3 percent pass accuracy this season, ranking third of all players to start at least 15 matches and first in his position, with Arsenal's centre-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny those above him.

It's a remarkable feat given that all of the players around him are playing for sides that pride themselves on possession football. Of all players to have made a greater than average number of appearances in the league this season, the only other teams represented in the top 19 are Arsenal, City, Liverpool, Swansea, Tottenham and Chelsea.

When you take away Ki's 858 accurate and 940 attempted passes from Sunderland's totals, their league standing of 13th for pass accuracy (78.3 percent) drops three places (down to 76.8 percent). He has been integral to the fact that the Black Cats' pass accuracy has risen from 76.4 percent under Di Canio at the start of the season to 80.7 percent over the past nine league matches.

Many may feel that Ki is the odd one out at Sunderland, but he's the player who Poyet may well be most keen to bring in this summer, should the South Korean help his side stave off the threat of relegation.

All statistics courtesy of where you can find yet more stats, including live in-game data and unique player and team ratings.


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