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FANPOST: Hold Your Nerve, Sam

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Check out the latest Fanpost from StevenJuan10, who believes Sam Allardyce must stick at the five-at-the-back system he's been deploying recently if he is to succeed here.

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It worries me that Sam Allardyce has lasted only 20 minutes or so in our two most recent games before abandoning the new 3-5-2 system that had shown such promise at Palace, Arsenal, Everton (yes!) and at home to Stoke, in favour of more conventional back four-based systems. It's not that I think he was wrong in those particular cases to make the changes he did, more worrying is that he began to publicly question the system itself after Saturday's spineless Stamford Bridge surrender.

Sam must hold his nerve and stick with this system in my opinion. He must realise that when we have our best players all available, this is the style that suits them the most. He must realise that with only minimal squad additions, results and performances like those his side have suffered in the last three games would be much less likely. The signs were so positive before this latest dip that, surely, Allardyce cannot abandon the experiment now.

For example, it's the only way of playing that accommodates Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher adequately - they both look as threatening and happy in a front two as they do toothless and frustrated when either is flying solo as a spearhead. They combine well as a pair and can prove to be a real handful for defences in this ultra-competitive division. Of course we could play two strikers in the old-fashioned way, like table-toppimg Leicester City. 4-4-2 is indeed threatening to make a comeback of late, but I don't believe Sunderland have the right players to operate a two-man central midfield and there'd be questions over the wide midfield options. The formerly popular style was phased out in the early part of this century by British coaches, following their European counterparts in recognising that possession could best be maintained with three conventional midfielders. Certainly, when the opponent lines up with three, it'd be a brave coach that pitted a tandem of central players against them. If you're sceptical, revisit Liverpool's Champions League Final comeback over Milan, founded on a change to match the Italians' central triumvirate by introducing Didi Hamman at half-time.

Allardyce's 3-5-2 is also a system that brings out the best in Patrick Van Aanholt, a genuine attacking threat as a wing-back, whilst papering over his enormous positional flaws with the presence of a left-sided centre-back and through his own position far higher up the pitch, where his considerable strengths lie. It can also be pointed out that he defended well as a wing-back at Palace, when Lee Cattermole was aiding his quest magnificently and a first choice back three were for once available for selection. For DeAndre Yedlin and to a lesser extent Billy Jones, apply the same rationale. We have very promising, fast and adventurous wing-backs, yet the same personnel would be viewed as quite inadequate full-backs in a Premier League flat back four.

Central defence is another area of the team that benefits from having the extra body in place. We have seen great things from Younes Kaboul in a Sunderland shirt but when he's been paired with Sebastian Coates alone, there have been some disastrous consequences. John O'Shea is the lynchpin and a reliable organiser but he too seems to stroll through games even more so in the numerically strengthened defensive set-up.

Sunderland 's squad has been sadly lacking in pace in recent times, making it vital that the likes of Van Aanholt, Yedlin, Defoe, Watmore and Borini feature as much as possible and that we play a game that suits these players.

The danger seems that Sam, like Gus before him, might lose his nerve and revert to a 'safer' formation. The downturn in results recently, after rare back-to-back wins, can be attributed to a lack of cover in vital areas rather than to a flawed system. In fact, most poor showings under Big Sam can be: Billy Jones and Wes Brown had to play against a rampant Everton; Coates started at Chelsea after being unwell; Kaboul missed the Watford defeat; Defoe missed Arsenal and most of Watford's visit and of course Cattermole and the irrepressible Seb Larsson could not be fielded in the latest two losses.

With this in mind I hope Sam is courageous and looks for January signings that fit into this system, offering vital cover for inevitable injuries and suspensions. Playing three centre halves is great but when your entire squad contains only three, it's an obvious limitation. All of a sudden, Sam wouldn't need to scour the globe and pull the hitherto elusive top-level lone striker miraculously from his ample backside - he could consider Fletcher and Defoe a worthy pair and Borini and Watmore to be very enticing options from the bench.

Sam would be able to concentrate on acquiring one or two more forward-thinking central midfielders with a love for the ball at their feet to complement the wonderful Yann M'Vila and Cattermole (the return of Ki, anyone?). Larsson would be trusted as a reserve here and Adam Johnson and even bad-boy Jeremain Lens could adequately fill this role on their day. However, Everton exposed AJ in this position and to rely on any without-the-ball work from Lens would be highly optimistic.

If Ellis Short was feeling uncharacteristically generous, Sam could even treat himself to a backup left-back, but it doesn't appear to be as vital as it did before the change of style.

Perhaps most importantly, I have started to enjoy watching games again recently, even including the Everton reverse. Sunderland were so dangerous on the front foot in that game (imagine if Kaboul and O'Shea had played), it was thrilling at times. The understandable switch back to conservatism in the next game, at home to Southampton, was the season's lowest ebb: depressing and demoralising in equal measure. It's time for the fans to be more entertained, to look forward to games again. This system should allow pace, width, ball retention and attacking threat in abundance.

Sam Allardyce has had an unswerving, nigh-on irritating self-belief throughout his management career. He must stick to his guns and go for it. Don't blink now!

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