What Sunderland fans can expect if Will Still is appointed new head coach

Sunderland have been heavily linked with Will Still for many months now, and following his departure from Stade de Reims, a possible appointment looks more likely.

The Black Cats have had a tough season. Sunderland finished just six points above the relegation zone with Mike Dodds seriously struggling to find any sort of form during his time as interim head coach.

Dodds was given the post until the end of the season following Michael Beale’s short tenure. And now once again Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is on the look out for a new boss.

Will Still, Danny Rohl and Rene Maric are the three most common names in the media at the moment.

Here, we will look at what Sunderland fans can expect should Still get the job.

His background

At 31-years-old, Still would become the youngest manager in the EFL. He grew up in Belgium and began his coaching journey after moving to England for college.

He became Preston North End’s u14 assistant manager and upon moving back to Belgium, he became the analyst for Sint-Truiden.

Still had two short stints at Standard Liege before getting his first big break at 24 when he was made caretaker manager of second tier team Lierse. He then had a spell at Beerschot before moving to Reims.

Still left Reims for Standard Liege again in order to complete one of his UEFA coaching badges in Belgium, before later returning under Oscar Garcia in France. Amid personal issues, Garcia was dismissed and Still was given the job after impressing on a short-term basis.

He speaks fluent English and French, something which would come in very handy in Sunderland’s young squad.

Will Still in possession

Still started at Reims deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation. But, like most teams, this differed in different phases of the game.

During build-up, Reims would play out in a 4-1-2-3 with a single pivot dropping between two centre backs who split wide either side of the penalty box.  Once they have progressed from this initial phase, the other central midfielder does drop in to form a double pivot to aid ball progression through the thirds. Still’s style prioritises forward passing and he often utilises a mix of both long and short play depending on the aggression and intensity of the opposition’s press.

Whilst in the final third, Still prefers to commit bodies forward and despite being the underdog in many games, he will look to take the game to the opposition whenever possible.

Reims usually attacked down the flanks with wingers narrowing into half spaces and the full backs creating width to stretch the opponent’s defence. They use a rest defence of both defensive midfielders and central defenders staying back to provide solid balance and a base to retain and rebuild possession.

Still likes to move the opponent side to side in an attempt to open up gaps in their defence.

Will Still out of possession

Due to the number of players they commit to attacks, Reims are often susceptible to transitions.

Still nullifies this by deploying an aggressive counter press as soon as possession is lost in an aim to achieve one of a few things.

  • Win the ball back high up in the opponent’s half
  • Slow down their progression and buy time for teammates to get into their shape
  • Force them long trusting their defenders to win the ball back

Their shape does alter slightly. Still usually had his Reims side defend in a 4-4-2 shape and a mid-block. This forces the opponent around the edges, protecting central areas. Reims wouldn’t tend to press the opponent’s centre back, with both strikers instead screening the opponent’s pivots preventing central progression and forcing them to use the full backs to advance, then triggering a press.