West Brom-Sunderland: How will David Moyes line up at the back?

David Moyes will consider operating with a back three at West Brom tomorrow.

Friday, 20th January 2017, 7:00 am
Billy Jones: Defensive strength. Picture by FRANK REID

The Sunderland boss started with the trio of Billy Jones, Jason Denayer and Papy Djilobodji at Burnley in the FA Cup, with Javier Manquillo as the right wingback and Patrick van Aanholt on the left side.

He switched to 3-5-2 to 4-4-2 just after the hour when introducing Jermain Defoe, though that and the change in formation was followed by Burnley’s best spell of the match.

Given the aerial threat presented by West Brom, there is every chance the Black Cats may go with the three at the back, though John O’Shea is likely to start in the unit.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

O’Shea, who is set to become Sunderland’s record Premier League appearance-maker, would probably team up with Denayer and Djilobodji.

Jones, one of the leading lights at Turf Moor, is likely to switch to the right wingback slot unless Denayer is needed in midfield.

Unlike some bosses who religiously stick to the exact same system, Moyes has not been afraid to mix up his formations.

He has fielded 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 4-5-1, 3-4-3 and 4-4-1-1 at some point but says the 3-5-2 was not intended as a warm-up for Tony Pulis’s Baggies, rather an attempt to frustrate the Clarets.

“We’ve tinkered with things in a few of the games,” explained Moyes.

“We played slightly different against Liverpool, slightly different against Chelsea.

“We looked at something different on Tuesday night because we hadn’t played well against Burnley in our two previous matches against them.

“I wanted to try something else.

“I wanted to see if we could find a way of causing Burnley problems.”

That, unfortunately for the Sunderland faithful, did not happen – Sunderland had to wait until the last kick of the match to have their first shot on target.

However, tomorrow’s selection for the trip to The Hawthorns will be governed first and foremost by defensive solidity.

The Black Cats must look to stifle a Baggies side who have won four of their last five matches on their home patch, scoring 13 times in that sequence.

Moyes will restore Defoe to his starting XI tomorrow with the leading scorer looking to add to his 12 Premier goals.

The game is likely to come too soon for Victor Anichebe, who was released by Pulis at the end of last season.

Anichebe is back in training after recovering from a hamstring strain though it’s unlikely Moyes will risk the team’s talisman.

The same goes for Steven Pienaar, who is close to a return from a calf strain, while Jack Rodwell is set to sit out the contest at the eighth-placed Albion with knee trouble.