ADAM JOHNSON’S deployment as a makeshift striker is designed to keep the England international in the most advanced areas possible.
Sunderland boss Gus Poyet used Johnson alongside Fabio Borini up front in Monday night’s defeat at Tottenham and the Easington-born winger is likely to remain there for today’s Stadium of Light clash against Everton.
Johnson tops Sunderland’s goalscoring charts with 10 this season and Poyet is keen to see the 26-year-old add to that tally by relinquishing some of his defensive responsibilities as a frontman.
Poyet told the Echo: “We want to give freedom and to give him the option not to defend; suffer and be too far away from goal.
“When we are defending, it’s not his game.
“Let’s hope he keeps bringing some quality from his position.
“Like I always say though, we need to do something to help Jonno to perform too.
“We need to be in certain parts of the pitch and that’s why when we are sometimes chasing the game and are so high, it looks so good.”
Sunderland’s continued use of a 5-3-2 formation - rather than Johnson’s outing as a frontman - received more attention in the aftermath of the 5-1 defeat at Spurs, despite three of the hosts’ goals coming when the Black Cats switched to a more orthodox 4-4-2.
Poyet understands the question marks from supporters over the new system, yet believes results inevitably affect any opinions.
“I accept the criticism, as long as it’s professional,” he said. “It’s part of football and someone has to get it and I’m the one responsible.
“The idea is to find a solution. It’s about us; how we can play better, defend better and create that balance between defending and winning games.
“It all depends on the result. It doesn’t matter if you play with or without a striker or if you play seven at the back.
“The idea is to find the balance, but sometimes it’s easier than others. “
Even if Sunderland cannot secure the necessary points to remain in the Premier League though, Poyet says there should not be any hint of throwing in the towel in the relegation battle.
“It would be really unfair from everyone - players, staff, the club and the fans - to give up,” he added.
“It’s very easy to accuse whoever it is of giving up. I don’t think it’s time to give up.
“We’re not even talking about mathematically yet. It’s all about getting a win somehow.
“All we can ask the players to keep trying. I want to keep going until it’s not a possibility.”