With no one who was inside the Stadium of Light on Saturday - most notably the players in a red-and-white shirt - entirely sure what system Simon Grayson was aiming for in defeat to Sheffield United, the Sunderland boss simply has to get his side back to basics - and quick - to avoid another morale-sapping showing against Nottingham Forest tomorrow night.
Three at the back should be the basis for an optimum way in which to organise this current crop of Black Cats players but with key personnel to form it missing at the weekend, it just didn’t work out. That coupled with the limited footballing intelligence which has dogged Sunderland sides for several years exposed the risk of experimenting, so a hasty backtrack to 4-2-3-1 will have to be the basis of the line-up on Tuesday.
Without time to perfect any tweaks to the system employed against the Blades, Simon Grayson will also have to whisk three key players back into the side and quick. Bryan Oviedo, Lee Cattermole and dare we say it, Billy Jones, will simply have to be selected in order to ensure Sunderland put in a performance.
Oviedo should be raring to go after a couple of extra days rest to recover from his stint on international duty in Central America. Grayson has already said Cattermole should be fit to start on Tuesday and let’s face it - Billy Jones may be limited but he offers balance on the right if nothing else; and balance was a feature sorely lacking on Saturday.
It looks like Lamine Kone might be ruled out which forces the Sunderland manager’s hand a little in dropping his three centre-back system for this one too.
The Black Cats need Aiden McGeady back urgently but a hamstring injury doesn’t tend to clear up within 48 hours. Simon Grayson will likely drop Callum McManaman in and switch George Honeyman back to midfield.
There is a case for handing Lynden Gooch a start but with the shake-it-up to be kept to a minimum, that may be a step too far. Because this is a game Sunderland need to win to silence those doubters who now outweigh the believers amongst the home support after a poor sequence of results and performances.
And frankly, after a few underwhelming showings from Robbin Ruiter, there is a case to be built for returning Jason Steele back into goal. It’s beginning to look like Sunderland have signed two mediocre goalkeepers here with a combined transfer fee of £500,000 looking to be about all their worth for the pair.
Switching to one up front also means James Vaughan drops back to the bench which truthfully looks to be the best place for him until he can find his touch.
After advocating a system employing a back-three ourselves last week and then watching it crash and burn, we’ll go with this then and trust Simon Grayson to heed our advice once more.
What do you reckon? If you were Simon Grayson, would you persevere with three at the back or revert to a flat back four?
Formation for Forest - what would you do?
This poll is closed
Persevere and get the three-at-the-back right
Bin it off and revert to a back four