Chris Young’s Analysis - Adam Johnson or Ricky Alvarez may have to be left out at Swansea

Steven Fletcher
Steven Fletcher
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FINALLY, Gus Poyet has landed upon a system which ticks all the boxes for Sunderland.

Sunderland’s set-up over the last two games has brought goals, victories, defensive solidity (albeit not necessarily from corners) and sufficient support for Jermain Defoe.

It would appear ludicrous to tinker with that. Continuity and momentum is needed to ensure the spark provided by the two wins over the last seven days is maintained.

But the performance of Ricky Alvarez at Fulham, coupled by the likely return of Adam Johnson tomorrow, threatens to disrupt the new system.

Can Gus Poyet really only hand Johnson a place on the bench after the minor operation on his thumb in midweek?

Considering he has arguably been Sunderland’s stand-out player over the last month, it would be harsh.

It is equally tough to leave out Alvarez after his superb performance at Craven Cottage.

But can both be used either side of Defoe? There have to be question marks.

It may be a case of either Johnson or Alvarez.

Earlier in the season, the lone striker was left too isolated when there were two widemen either side of him in the front three. It’s why Connor Wickham was often deployed in a wide role.

Defoe needs to play off a striker too.

Using the England international in a front two, while there has been a solitary winger given a relatively free role, has worked well in the last two games.

Should Wickham succumb to the calf injury which he suffered in the warm-up at Fulham – and that is likely to be the case – then Steven Fletcher or Danny Graham may have to partner Defoe, despite their lack of goals.

The make-up of that front three is Poyet’s major selection dilemma at the Liberty Stadium tomorrow.

Costel Pantilimon will return in goal after Vito Mannone’s outing in the FA Cup, while Seb Larsson should come in for Emanuele Giaccherini in midfield after the Italian international suffered a knock in the closing stages in midweek.

If Giaccherini recovers, he will offer a perfect option from the bench, in a possession-based game which will suit him.

Swansea have notable absentees of their own, with ex-Middlesbrough winger Marvin Emnes ruled out through injury, Gylfi Sigurdsson suspended and the fleet-of-foot Jefferson Montero a doubt, albeit former Sunderland loanee Ki Sung-Yueng has returned from Asia Cup duty.

But the biggest loss to the Swans remains Wilfried Bony.

Swansea proved with their victory at Southampton last weekend that there is life after Bony, yet inevitably over the final few months of the campaign, those goals will be missed.

Bony is as strong as an ox, quick and a natural finisher. Fellow frontman Bafetimbi Gomis is yet to prove he has anywhere near the same prowess.

But while Bony’s move to Manchester City is a blow to Garry Monk, it hardly makes Swansea vulnerable.

Freed from relegation worries and out of the FA Cup, Swansea can enjoy these last few months of the season and play the tried and tested approach which they do so well.

Sunderland will have to perform close to their maximum to come away with anything. But Poyet’s men were in confident mood at Fulham after that crucial victory over Burnley last weekend and have a little bit of momentum gathering for the trip to south Wales.

If the Black Cats can come away with a point tomorrow, it would cap a very good week. They might just do that.

Verdict: Draw