Poyet pleased with Sunderland formation gamble – so 3-5-2 system will stay

Gus Poyet issues instructions at Tottenham
Gus Poyet issues instructions at Tottenham
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GUS POYET believes a 3-5-2 formation makes the most of Sunderland’s current resources.

Since arriving at the Stadium of Light 15 months ago, Sunderland boss Poyet has predominantly stuck to a 4-1-4-1 system – working on it throughout pre-season, and sticking to it rigidly throughout the current campaign.

But there was a fresh approach at his former club Spurs on Saturday, as Poyet opted for three central defenders to accommodate new signing Jermain Defoe in a strike partnership.

Poyet had experimented with the same system last season, but Sunderland failed to pick up a single point and the trial was swiftly ended after the Black Cats succumbed to a 5-1 rout at Spurs in April.

Yet there were far more encouraging signs at White Hart Lane this time, with Sunderland unfortunate to come away empty-handed after Christian Eriksen’s late winner for the hosts.

“With the personnel we’ve got at the moment, I think it was the best idea,” said Poyet.

“It was a bit of a risk. We’d only trained with it for a few minutes.

“But a few players did it last year, so they knew how to play it.

“It was just a matter of how the full-backs, who were not with us last year, would adapt in a game like that.

“I think the first half was pretty good. I was pleased.”

After producing a minimal offensive threat in their previous Premier League outing against Liverpool seven days earlier, Sunderland were certainly more dangerous in their new set-up.

Defoe had a penalty appeal turned down seconds after Spurs took the lead, Steven Fletcher spurned a sitter from a Billy Jones cross just before Seb Larsson’s superb free-kick equaliser, while substitute Danny Graham should have converted at least one of two chances either side of Eriksen’s winner.

“I think the difference was we created,” said Poyet.

“The penalty, people will look at it, but if that’s not a foul, then Jermain is free inside the box with the ball on his right foot.

“You would put your money on Jermain in those situations.

“It’s not only the foul not given, it’s the opportunity that went away.

“Then the Fletcher one and the couple from Danny Graham.

“We’re talking about chances inside the box with only the goalkeeper to beat.

“That makes the difference about winning or not.”

It was a second successive outing from the bench for Graham, who returned from a loan spell at Championship Wolves at the turn of the year after being offered to any willing suitors throughout the summer.

Graham could still head out again on loan during the current window, should Sunderland receive an acceptable offer.

But despite Graham’s misses, Poyet believes that the 29-year-old is making an impression after ending a 20-month wait for a Premier League appearance in red and white.

“He came on, held the ball and ran about,” added the Uruguayan.

“He gave us something that we need.

“He’s been showing that since he came back from his loan.

“If he’s like that, he will have his chance.

“We don’t have anything personal against anyone.

“It’s how you perform, how sharp you are and how you play.

“If he’s going to help us, then he’s going to play.”