Sunderland boss faces ‘big dilemma’ over Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher

Steven Fletcher

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Sam Allardyce faces a “big dilemma” over whether he can buck the Premier League trend and continue to field two strikers against Southampton tomorrow.

Allardyce partnered Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher together in the starting XI for the first time during his stewardship at Goodison Park last weekend and the pair responded by each finding the net.

If you look at how Southampton play, they don’t play with two up top. Not many do now

Sam Allardyce

Yet, at the other end, a rag-tag defensive performance saw Sunderland ship six goals – a sight which Allardyce required two days to come to terms with.

The Sunderland manager’s options will be boosted this weekend by the return to fitness of Younes Kaboul, John O’Shea, Ola Toivonen and Fabio Borini, although midfielder Lee Cattermole misses out with a groin injury.

That is likely to see Allardyce revert to a more familiar back four, rather than the 3-5-2 formation which he debuted against Everton.

But whether Sunderland can be sufficiently resilient while keeping two orthodox frontmen in the side, is a decision weighing heavy on Allardyce.

He told the Echo: “(The system) is a massive call.

“Whether we can play that system and play different people in it, is another problem.

“If you look at how Southampton play, they don’t play with two up top. Not many do now.

“It’s a big dilemma for us.

“The bottom line – and the most important line – is the end-score.

“We had more shots on target than any other Premier League club last weekend, which is quite a bizarre stat.

“I was shocked for two days after Everton. The good was very good and the bad was bloody awful.

“The difference is small moments in the game.

“We needed one of shots which hit the post to go in.

“And then I thought scoring after half-time would give us a big boost, but it didn’t.”

Having eventually come to terms with the Everton rout, Allardyce believes a combination of personnel and ill-discipline were to blame for Sunderland suffering their heaviest defeat since last season’s 8-0 rout at Southampton.

But he also insists there needs to be a much-improved sense of game-management among the players, to react to different situations.

Allardyce added: “There was this massive wave of emotion in the game which we’ve got to try to control better.

“We need an understanding of changing the way we play within the 90 minutes to make sure we get a result.

“We need more game management. We’re in this position, so let’s manage it better.

“When you’ve got a result, then you keep hold of it. If you do that, then more often than not, you’re the one who wins the game.

“Over time, we’ll hopefully educate the players into what we want.”