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Poyet's Apparent Tactical Dice Rolling Asking For Trouble

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Is Poyet's apparent lost faith in his own system becoming a problem for the players?

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Where tactics are concerned, there seems to be two general schools of thought: those who believe a manager should be tactically consistent, developing a clear identity and system of play that is perfected over time, and those who believe the key to tactical success lies in the ability to fluidly adapt.

I don't discount the merits of the latter, not by any stretch of the imagination, but I must admit to much preferring the former.

To me, it just sends out the right kind of message, really. It sends out a confident, authoritative signal. We are going to play our way, we are in control of what we are doing, and you should be more worried about us than we should be of you. It is, in my opinion, more efficient too. Players become practised and familiar with a specific role and the requirements of it, and they benefit from the belief that comfort gives them.

That was always a big appeal of Gus Poyet too as far as I was concerned. He was resolute in his tactical vision. He understood clearly what he wanted his team to be.

In recent weeks, though, he seems to have lost that tactical resolve. He dabbled in 5-3-2, then dipped his toe in a 4-1-3-2 before bowing to the demand for 4-4-2 and finally resorting back to 'his' 4-3-3. One week we are pressing high up the pitch, the next we are camped on the edge of our box. One week we are getting it forward quickly, the next we are taking more care to slow the game down. On Tuesday at Hull, God only knows what or who he'll choose.

Though I still back Poyet and certainly don't entertain any thoughts of looking for another new manager and another new direction, I must admit it has become a serious concern for me.

Quite apart from anything else, I don't think it's good for the players. Their belief in a system or philosophy has to come from a manager, and if his is showing clear signs of wavering, it is surely going to have a knock-on effect on their confidence in it.

It's not that tactical versatility doesn't have its place. Of course it does. If it is good enough for Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, it's good enough for Sunderland.

However, it's surely about tweaks rather than a fresh blueprint. Faced with the necessity of neutralising Christian Eriksen at Wembley against Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea didn't tear up their system and devise a new bespoke one. They retained it, for the most part, pushing Cesc Fabregas slightly further forward to allow Kurt Zouma to come in to stand on Eriksen's toes. The basic shape of their side didn't change.

That's the kind of tactical variation that has merit. It's considered, controlled, and still retains the basic framework upon which players rely.

Poyet's tactical over-engineering, on the other hand, all seems to have stemmed from the arrival of Jermain Defoe who, it is alleged, can't play the lone striker role in Gus' favoured system. I'm not sure I buy it, really.

He isn't ideal for it, granted, but no one else is either and that never stopped us before. Steven Fletcher doesn't have the speed or responsibility in possession to play it. Connor Wickham doesn't have the touch or the maturity. Danny Graham doesn't, and Jozy Altidore didn't, have the goal threat. Defoe isn't any less ideal than anyone else. If the system didn't warrant changing for anyone else, it certainly didn't for him either.

It needed tweaked here and there, yet maintained at a fundamental level. Push Connor Wickham closer to the front from the left. Switch Seb Larsson to the left side of the central midfield three to give Wickham the defensive freedom to help the striker more. There are surely any number of solutions to try before you start rewriting entire plans and starting over.

I just can't help but feel Poyet is just starting to question himself a little too much. Some may say he should be questioning himself and it's long overdue, but if he is going to succeed here, or anywhere else, he's going to do it his way.

Any more constant roles of the dice and experimentation and you can't help but worry the confidence of the players, and their confidence in the coach, will start to become undermined - if it isn't already - and that's never done anyone any good in football.