There appear to be many, many planet size problems with Sunderland at the moment. However one of the smaller subplots presumably orbiting around Advocaat's world right now is just what on earth should he do with Jermain Defoe? We've managed to engineer a situation, in typical Sunderland fashion, where we have one the best goal poachers of the modern game yet we aren't deploying him in his most effective role.
The striker's arrival on Wearside was heralded as a masterstroke, a piece of transfer wizardry carried out by Director of Football, Lee Congerton. Out went misfiring Jozy Altidore, swapped for one of the Premier League's greatest goal scorers. Whilst still drunk on the euphoria of the deal there were those with a misanthropic view that questioned just how the former Spurs man would fit into the formation. The opposing belief was that a needs must mentality was the order of the day and if we served him with opportunities in the box he'd score the goals.
Who was right? I'd argue both camps can claim their view is the correct one here. The few goals he scored following his arrival arguably saved us from certain relegation but he never looked particularly comfortable slotting into the team in the way it was set up. The goals came almost in spite of his positioning rather than because of it. As we know, he was often used in an unfamiliar role too, which clearly didn't help. However did 4-3-3 restrict and continue to limit, his ability to find the back of the net? I'd say yes.
Prior to pre-season and with suggestions of players coming in, assurances seemed to be made that Defoe would once again find himself back up top in the striker role. Yet here we are once again, in the thick of it and Defoe has become a talking point spilling out of the larger issues. He seemed to be all over the pitch against Norwich but without looking like he knew what was expected of him. In addition press reports have subsequently linked him with a move away, perhaps feeding on the fact that he must surely be unhappy with the state of play on Wearside.
So, should Sunderland stick or twist with Jermain Defoe? In my opinion we should either play more to his strengths, in a 4-4-2 (which I'm admittedly not a fan of) or free up his no doubt huge wages. The latter would afford us the opportunity to bring in someone who could become successful in a 4-3-3. Square pegs in square holes. Trying to distil a complicated problem down to its most pure form, it's that simple.
I'd also argue this decision should be made now, before the transfer deadline. Given we appear to be financially embarrassed, with little wiggle room in the summer transfer window, perhaps Congerton needs a wheeler-dealer mentality to generate a winning formula? Perhaps it's about accepting that we do need to sell to bring in more players. Maybe it's about keeping it old school, 4-4-2. On that basis, here's a question, Jermain Defoe - right man wrong time?