Sam Allardyce says his wing-backs are “critical” if Sunderland’s 3-5-2 set-up is going to continue paying dividends.
Allardyce faces several selection dilemmas for today’s trip to Arsenal, not least whether to recall Billy Jones to the starting XI after serving a one-match ban in last weekend’s victory against Stoke.
Jones had previously started every game under Allardyce, yet replacement DeAndre Yedlin performed well in the 2-0 win over the Potters.
Allardyce must decide whether to keep faith with on-loan Spurs defender Yedlin in the right-wing back role at the Emirates, or revert to the experience of Jones.
But, with Sunderland successful in a 3-5-2 formation in the last two games, the Black Cats boss says the pair occupying the slots on either flank are in pivotal positions.
“DeAndre is learning about this level of football every time he gets a chance to play,” said Allardyce.
“I always think that being a wing-back is a much simpler job than being a full-back in a back four.
“Not all full-backs seems to adjust to it, because you’ve got less covering to do.
“But, in terms of today’s football, you’ve got more opportunity to get forward when in possession.
“Most of the full-backs provide the width today anyway, rather than wingers.
“Wingers play on the opposite sides now, with very few playing down the side of their strongest foot.
“The width is expected to come from advancing full-backs.
“We’ve got them in the wing-back positions and, for us going forward, they’re going to be critical.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland will look to consolidate their position at the top of the Under-21 Premier League’s First Division tomorrow.
Andy Welsh’s side host title rivals Reading at Eppleton CW (kick-off 12.30pm).