Craig Gardner's latest stunner has put him firmly in the frame for a Sunderland starting berth, says Gus Poyet.
The former Birmingham midfielder sent his side through to the FA Cup quarter finals with an incredible swerving and dipping strike against Southampton, which has left his manager contemplating the variety he could bring to the central midfield area.
He told reporters:
Of my midfielders, he’s [Gardner] the player that can get in the box the most and have those kind of shots. He is putting himself in the frame.
What was really interesting was that Gardner seemed to benefit from the tactical tweak to a 4-1-3-2 system against the Saints, which essentially saw four central midfield players used behind two strikers.
On the face of it the system looks a decent fit for Sunderland. There is plenty of strikers to call upon and the likes of Ki Sung-Yueng, Emanuele Giaccherini and Gardner can provide attacking thrust from the central midfield area.
However, the big question would be where that left Adam Johnson, who simply has to play in his current form. Could he play the same role as Seb Larsson did against Southampton, where he was a central midfielder yet assigned the right hand channel to play from? Would anyone even dare messing with his position in his current form? Don't think I would.
Is a more traditional 4-4-2 once again an option? Although, again, that has Johnson doing a lot more defending than you'd like and we've seen him struggle in that system before.
So there is your head-scratcher really. Poyet changed systems this week and has suggested that he may play two strikers in home games again. So how do you do that without sacrificing either Johnson's current form of the precise position which has yielded it?