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Make Your Case: What Formation Should Sunderland Use At Spurs?

Having started the season pathetically there have been calls for Sunderland to change to a completely different tactical system, one that we saw come in to play towards the Everton game when we finished off with a three-man back line. This weekend we face Spurs - Karl and James are arguing over which system David Moyes should use. Vote for who you agree with in the poll below the article!

James - Three-Five-One-One!

My esteemed colleague Dan outlined the benefits and options for utilising a three-man back line rather comprehensively on Tuesday. How about employing it this Sunday then?

Tottenham are an excellent side, but for all Mauricio Pochettino’s strengths and the hype about his status as one of the best young managers working in England, it’s quite easy to predict the tactics he will employ against us:

1. Formation 4-2-3-1 with the potential to switch to 4-4-2

2. A holding midfielder – e.g. Eric Dier and a box-to-box variety – e.g. Victor Wanyama.

3. ‘Arry Kane, England’s Number One, will be Spurs lone striker with an option off the bench to put another body up front alongside him

4. Delli Alli at Number 10

The challenge for David Moyes at Sunderland comes down to a distinct aim with two sub categories:

To develop a tactical system that -

a) enables all of the individual members of the team to be better than they would otherwise be

b) is unique enough so that teams don’t know how to beat it

It really is that simple. Playing to our strengths and thwarting the opposition. Football is a simple game in such terms. The Everton fixture highlighted the glut of central defenders Sunderland have, and we simply do not have the resource to leave our best players on the bench.

I can’t have been alone in being slightly embarrassed by the six central defenders Moyes had at his disposal on Monday night. Of the benched ones, John O’Shea and Jason Denayer represent real value in bringing one of them in to the side for Sunday -  O’Shea because of his leadership and man-marking ability and Denayer because of his mobility and versatility.

It would be the ‘Sunderland way’ to drop Papy Djilobodji to make way for one of them. Too many central defenders have been signed as heirs to the throne of John O’Shea and Wes Brown in recent years only to be discarded as soon as a doubt emerges.

Sebastian Coates and Santiago Vergini had plenty of detractors but regardless, they were gone as soon as they came under scrutiny. Coates put himself back in the spot light with a headline creating performance last night against Ronaldo’s Real Madrid. £8m on Papy means he must get a full season, and if that means playing him through a hell fire baptism, until he gels with Lamine Kone, then so be it.

Playing around with formations for fun on a website is one thing, the harsh reality of a trip to White Hart Lane is another. But, a 3-5-1-1 at Spurs may well have merits beyond Dan’s quadruple whammy at the top of the page.

That’s Defoe up front with a man playing off him, probably Lyndon Gooch; a packed midfield to sort out Deli Alli and to press the play, and wing backs offering presence out wide and one of them reverting to a full back in defence.

Javier Manquillo offers balance here. Predominantly a defensive player, he offers the perfect complement to van Aanholt who is primarily an attacking threat on the opposite side. Three at the back and, when under the cosh, revert to a four with Manquillo dropping in. He played this way, with some success, at Liverpool under Brendan Roger’s occasional three at the back variants.

Sunderland do possess a mould-ability at present which will not always be the case. New guns Lyndon Gooch, Duncan Watmore, Didier Ndong and Papy Djilobodji are finding their way in the Premier League and do not possess the inflexibility that older heads might. Heaven knows we need a tactical system which plays to our strengths.

Three at the back, the system many believe Sam Allardyce was working towards, may just be it. In Manquillo and Denayer the evidence suggests David Moyes has bought for it. Spurs is the game to test it.

Karl - Four-Three-Three!

Now is not the time to try playing with an unfamiliar system, especially one which relies on the defence to be in top form.

Sam Allardyce tried it last season and the results weren’t great, to say the least. He’s renowned as being a very good defensive coach and he couldn’t get it to work. I don’t have faith in David Moyes being able to make it work either. The defence was terrible in the second half against Everton, there’s no doubt about that. But switching to a setup that is new to this group of players, particularly against a side like Spurs, does not sound like a good idea.

To play with three at the back, you have to communicate with each other even more so than you do in a two, in my view. We saw on Monday that the communication in our defence is very poor, if not non-existent.

Even Patrick van Aanholt has admitted that we have communication problems at the back. The three central defenders have to play as one solid unit, each mimicking the other’s movement, and I don’t think that our defenders have the confidence or familiarity to do that yet.

You know that you’re getting desperate when you’re looking to your left back to be one of your biggest attacking outlets. But the fact is that Patrick van Aanholt is one of the biggest attacking threats that we have in the team, such is the distinct lack of creativity in the forward areas. His success in attacking areas owes to starting from deep and using the space occupied by a winger who moves inside, thus allowing him to attack the byline. By moving to three at the back we’d be playing without a winger, therefore taking away that space for him to run into.

Playing with three at the back would probably provide us with a bit more freedom and space to express ourselves on the pitch, but that’s not what we need right now. We need to be solid and make ourselves hard to beat again.

Sam Allardyce appeared to have it sorted at the back end of last season. His 433 system kept us solid and hard to break down, and the results spoke for themselves, with only nine goals conceded in the last ten games. We need to keep it simple, and I don’t think that a move to three at the back is the answer to that.

Who do you agree with? Vote in the poll below.

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