GUS Poyet is insistent that Sunderland played well enough on Monday to beat West Ham – and that only a bit of luck was lacking in front of goal.
But he admits that the form Adam Johnson showed when coming on as a second-half sub has forced him to reconsider whether or not he should have started with the Barclays Premier League’s January Player of the Month.
Poyet has not ruled out continuing with the 5-3-2 formation (or 3-5-2 formation, depending on how you describe it), in some of Sunderland’s eight remaining games because he believes the system has produced good footballing displays.
“I thought the shape of the team was very good against West Ham,” he said.
“We were going forward very well on the ball, playing good football.
“But the only problem was that we weren’t putting the ball in exactly the right place in the last third - it was the last cross, the last shot that was letting us down.
“And I think that was simply because we were a little bit in a hurry.
“We wanted to move the ball fast, we wanted to play at a good tempo.
“But sometimes the difference between being quick and being in a hurry is very little - and we were a little bit in a hurry in the last third.
“Having said that, the players were happy and confident at half-time that we were coming back in the game, they felt it was working well apart from the goal conceded.”
Poyet decided to give the players time in the second half to see if they could get an equaliser, only for them to concede again, at which point Adam Johnson was introduced and completely swung the game in Sunderland’s favour.
Poyet admitted: “My only doubt, and I took it home with me, is that I didn’t start Johnno – but I don’t have a crystal ball.
“I should point out that without Johnno we had a chance from three yards out, which fell to Lee Cattermole, and without Johnno we were still the better team, so it isn’t all about him.
“The issue is, we need to put the ball into the net.
“Clearly we should have had a penalty but we are not going to stay up or go down because of Howard Webb - because we had other chances to score in the game.”
Now Poyet says that regardless of the formation or players he decides on between now and the end of the season, he wants to see as much desire and determination from his players as they showed in the game against West Ham.
“We want no regrets and no excuses,” he said.
“I don’t want any Norwich away or Arsenal away type of performance because that was bad - that was unacceptable.
“Let’s be as good as were against Liverpool and West Ham - where we passed the ball well and put them under pressure.
“Against West Ham, we beat them on every stat but we still could not win.
“I’m trying everything, I’m trying all formations but we have not won.
“I still believe though that if we play the last eight games with the intensity we’ve played these last two, then we will win games.”