From The Durham Times: Make Or Break Time For Graham

Stu Forster

In among all the excitement of yesterday we forgot to bring you our latest Durham Times article. Here it is, considerably more dated than usual. That's your fault though, you could have bought the paper and read it on Friday. Do that this week please.

The news that Steven Fletcher is set to miss the rest of the current campaign following ankle ligament damage sustained on international duty came as little surprise.

As fans we have all feared the worst regarding every aspect of the club of late - such is the depressing predicament we find ourselves in. We were simply awaiting confirmation after our leading striker was stretchered from the field of play.

If there is to be a glimmer of hope that can be taken from such a horrific turn of events it is that the 4-4-2 experiment many fans were desperate for will surely be discarded to the wastepaper bin, resting alongside Titus Bramble's hopes of a contract extension.

Make no mistake, Sunderland's move to the good old staple of the English game that is 4-4-2 was a complete, unmitigated disaster which only served to showcase our deficiencies in both the centre of the park and on the wings.

What now looks likely is that Martin O'Neill will be forced to have a rummage around in said wastepaper bin and retrieve the 4-2-3-1 system which he discarded a couple of months back.

Rather than see this as an admission of failure, I believe this system could be a potential solution to Sunderland's problems of late. Well, things surely can't get any worse...

With every crisis comes opportunity, or so they say, and this could be exactly that for much-maligned striker Danny Graham.

The jury is certainly still out on the former Swansea man since his arrival on Wearside, having looked woefully unfit at times and without a goal to his name.

However the return to 4-2-3-1 could be the chance Graham needs. Rather than being shoehorned into a 4-4-2 formation which only serves to further stress Sunderland's shortfalls and provide little to no service to the forward line, 4-2-3-1 is a formation that Graham knows well and has flourished in previously.

Graham joined Sunderland with a pretty decent goalscoring record during his time in Wales - a goal every three games - and this came while being employed as the spearhead of a Swansea side which thrived playing a similar system to that which we could see O'Neill return.

If we can take this model which the Swans employed so well and replace the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson with Stephane Sessegnon, Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair with our own Adam Johnson and James McClean then we may well stand a chance of replicating their success.

While having players like Adam Johnson, James McClean and even Sebastian Larsson, albeit playing in a more central role of late, it is easy to come to the conclusion that capitalising on the wide areas and supplying the ammunition with crosses into the area would bring with it guaranteed goals.

As a system, 4-2-3-1 served us fantastically well following O'Neill's arrival and could just provide the launch pad for Danny Graham's Sunderland career despite the troublesome fixtures that lie ahead.

Indeed these few fixtures could very well make or break his time on Wearside, and despite the initial outcry about his boyhood allegiances, there's no greater time than now for him to silence the sizeable amount of doubters.

DAVID BOYLE.

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