Gus Poyet has claimed that the switch to playing three centre backs is for the benefit of the players and a popular decision with the squad.
Sunderland have suffered three straight losses since the change, culminating in a 5-1 collapse to Tottenham last week, but the manager has insisted that, although he isn't a fan of it himself, the players feel more 'secure' than with a four-man defence.
He told reporters:
I'm a four-at-the-back man, always, but I've had to change for different reasons.
It was very, very welcome for the players. It feels like the best option for the players and the one where they feel alright on the pitch.
It would be stupid to change it just because I like playing four.
Sometimes they [the players] give you ideas and the feeling lately is that the players feel more secure playing five at the back.
May be I'm just in a bit of a cynical mood, but it does feel a little like Poyet is passing the buck a little here. Playing four at the back was good enough to see Sunderland climb into midtable in February and good enough to bring the club to within a whisker of cup glory, so why is it it suddenly insecure now? Results certainly haven't suggested the players are currently comfortable with their football.
It seems that Poyet has lost a little - a lot - of his conviction of late and is trying to excuse it. I don't entirely blame him for that, by the way. He isn't the first manager the core of this squad have driven to distraction with their odd and seemingly engrained sleep-walking ways.
I suppose he has to say something to the press just about every day of his life, so a certain degree of leeway is required. That said, some of his comments have been a little weird recently. I'm not sure if it's the pressure getting to him or just our general penchant for Sunderlandness. If I'm honest, that makes me say weird stuff quite often too.
Regather your convictions and come back to us Gus... the pre-Wembley you is the one we believe in.