Steve Bruce will stick with the 4-4-1-1 formation

Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon

Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon

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STEVE Bruce expects to stick with his ploy of using a withdrawn striker when the Premier League gets under way.

The Sunderland boss is yet to deploy an orthodox two-man strike force during the club’s pre-season campaign – preferring instead a 4-4-1-1 formation with one man playing in the hole behind the lone striker.

Stephane Sessegnon is expected to hold down that role, with the Benin international thriving there towards the tail end of last season and already making an impression this time around as he bids to get on the scoresheet for the third successive game against Borussia Monchengladbach tomorrow.

The likes of Kieran Richardson and Steed Malbranque are also comfortable in the attacking midfield role, although Bruce will not rule out reverting to 4-4-2 with Connor Wickham, Asamoah Gyan and Ji Dong-won at his disposal.

But Bruce believes 4-4-1-1 offers more protection to the defence, with the deeper frontman able to drop into midfield when Sunderland are on the back foot.

Bruce told the Echo: “If you’re playing against good players, you leave yourself open at the back by playing 4-4-2.

“There’s not many teams now, who play two out-and-out strikers. One’s always off the main striker in the midfield area.

“It suits Sess and it suits the team and I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen of him.

“There’s other players who can play in that position, plus there’s the two boys who’ve just come in and Asamoah as well.

“Asamoah hasn’t started yet, he’s back and training with us and training very hard. We’ll introduce him over the next week.”

Sessegnon was used on either flank after arriving at Sunderland in a £6m move from Paris St Germain in January.

But it was when the 27-year-old was handed a more central role that he thrived towards the end of the season, helping Sunderland achieve their goal of a top half finish.

Bruce added: “We’ll look to keep him in that second striker role because I always think that’s his best position. And if he can score a few goals, as he has done in the last two pre-season games, then that helps as well.

“He scored three in three towards the end of the season and he’s come back this year in good shape which gives us hope.”