Willis v Flanagan: We look at the two men who could be vying for a CB role at Sunderland next season

If reports are to be believed, Sunderland are on the cusp of securing a deal for Coventry City’s highly-rated centre back Jordan Willis.

The 24-year-old is a free agent and set to leave the Sky Blues this summer, with Sunderland a surprise destination. He operated on the right side of Mark robin’s defensive unit last season, which is the same role occupied by Tom Flanagan for the Black Cats.

In our latest Stat Attack piece, we look at the defensive numbers for both players to see who enjoyed a better campaign in League One.

Both players got plenty of football for their respective sides last season, Willis playing 39 and Flanagan 41. The difference, bar the odd injury, was Sunderland’s cup run. Both sides finished in the top half, Coventry just outside the play-off spots and Sunderland just inside.

Both were integral to their respective team’s success and, in most probability, Jack Ross will want them to play together rather than switch. However, when comparing the potential new arrival outshines his opposite number on every count.

He makes more interceptions per game, 6.57 compared to Flanagan’s 5.82. Both numbers are respectable though, which suggests Sunderland could have two fine defenders to pick from our blend together.

Willis had two more aerial duels to contest per game than Willis, 8.05 compared to 6.04. Whether sides approached things a little differently against Coventry or not is up for debate; it’s more likely the compact, defensive sides would be going long against the likes of Sunderland. However, in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the likelihood is the central defensive pairing were also mopping up some of the long balls.

In terms of win percentages in the air, Willis again just wins the duel, albeit by a tiny amount with 56.3% compared to 54.4% for Flanagan. He made more clearances per game as well, 4.48 compared to 3.56.

Finally, yellow cards. This is a startling number, but Willis wasn’t booked once last season, nor sent off. Contrast that with 16 bookings for the Sunderland man and a red card too.

One stats we haven’t shown here is tackling percentage, which you’d think would be won by Flanagan given how many booking he got compared to Willis. Well, you’d be right. Flanagan made 7.42 defensive duels per game, winning 25.6% of those. Willis won a higher percentage, 29.2%, but made fewer at 5.59 per game.


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