Sunderland’s Jermain Defoe can deliver at Bournemouth

Jermain Defoe receives instruction from manager Dick Advocaat during the game against Aston Villa. Picture by FRANK REID

Jermain Defoe receives instruction from manager Dick Advocaat during the game against Aston Villa. Picture by FRANK REID

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Jermain Defoe’s role in the Sunderland side has been a topic of hot debate over the summer months.

Was he happy being shunted out wide? Could he lead the line alone in a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation? Would he even remain at the club past deadline day?

And it worked, with Sunderland producing their best attacking display of the season to date.

There was no chance of the 32-year-old ever leaving the Stadium of Light this summer.

But Defoe – the biggest goal threat at the club – was far from happy playing out wide.

That much was clear and it was arguably a big waste of his natural finishing ability.

His role in the side was therefore up for debate, with head coach Dick Advocaat adamant after the opening day defeat at Leicester City that the former Spurs striker wasn’t able to play down the middle by himself.

Signing a target man became a key priority of Advocaat.

Sunderland did manage to bring in extra firepower with the £10million capture of Liverpool striker and ex-loanee Fabio Borini.

But the popular Italian is far from a targetman in the traditional sense.

It left Advocaat with a dilemma, who would he choose to lead the line?

Borini started a behind-closed doors match against Hartlepool United during the international break in the central role and looked the leading contender for the role.

But Advocaat opted for Defoe in a 4-2-3-1 formation against Spurs.

And it worked, with Sunderland producing their best attacking display of the season to date, although, granted the bar has been set pretty low.

The attacking quartet of Defoe, Borini (on the left) and Jeremain Lens (on the right) and Swede Ola Toivonen in the Number 10 role had the shaky Spurs backline run ragged in the opening 45 minutes.

Defoe was proving wrong those who believe you need a burly targetman to lead the line.

The passing was crisp, movement clever, and Defoe making runs at goal instead of having his back to it, worked well for Sunderland.

The only thing missing was a goal.

A late Ryan Mason goal sunk the Black Cats but there were enough positive signs, in the first half especially, to suggest they are on the right track.

Toivonen is proving a shrewd signing, Lens impressed again with his raw pace, while Borini will improve and become more of a goal threat when his fitness levels improve.

Defoe, who should have scored with a shot that hit the post, impressed and if he is in the team then he needs to start in that central role.

Toivonen’s physicality helped Defoe as it allowed him more time and space to make those clever runs and go at the Spurs defence.

Advocaat has talked about the need to quickly find the right balance.

He has, with that attacking quartet.

Defoe was linked with a move back to AFC Bournemouth in the weeks leading up to deadline day, the striker enjoying a successful loan spell with the Cherries in the early stages of his career.

Defoe bagged 18 goals in 29 appearances back in 2000-01 with Bournemouth, before going on to to star for West Ham United, Spurs, Portsmouth, Canadian side Toronto and England.

Sunderland, of course, head to newly promoted Bournemouth tomorrow and Defoe should be leading the line again.

And you wouldn’t bet against him adding to his two Premier League goals down on the south coast, with the Black Cats desperate for their first league win of the season.