Sam Allardyce says Sunderland’s kamikaze defending was to blame for their 6-2 drubbing at Everton, rather than a new 3-5-2 formation.
With first-choice central defenders John O’Shea and Younes Kaboul both sidelined through injury, Allardyce made a surprise selection decision at Goodison Park by debuting a system which he had successfully used at former club West Ham.
The set-up suited Sunderland going forward, with goalscorers Jermain Defoe and Steven Fletcher both a constant threat, yet all that positive offensive work was undone by the frightening ease with which Everton netted on six occasions – three of which came in a seven-minute second-half blitz.
The central defensive trio of Sebastian Coates, Billy Jones and Wes Brown – making his first competitive appearance since May – all endured a miserable afternoon, albeit the protection in front of them was equally questionable.
But Allardyce believes that any talk about formations or systems is redundant, when players make such a glut of mistakes both individually and collectively.
The Sunderland manager said: “It didn’t matter what system we played at 2-2.
“If players decide to go and do what they want, and not do the right things, then the system doesn’t matter.
“You’ve got to be in there doing your best, in and out of possession as a team.
“On a positive note – and I hate losing 6-2 – we’ve had 17 attempts on goal and 12 on target.
“It should have brought us more goals than it did.
“At the top end, we can score a goal and create chances, but until we get in the habit out of possession of defending better, then it’s going to be worthless how many we score.
“If we’re going to be as open at the other end, then I’d sooner have two shots on target, score two goals and draw 2-2 all day long.”
Quick-fire goals either side of half-time from Defoe and Fletcher had seen Sunderland claw back a two-goal deficit to level proceedings after Everton had netted twice against the run of play.
But rather than Sunderland consolidating at 2-2, they went gung-ho for a third and paid a heavy price, with Everton scoring four times in a devastating 21-minute spell.
Allardyce said: “I look to the team to understand the position we’re in. Where are we? What have we done?
“We’ve played okay, created chances, gone 2-0 down and got to 2-2. Come on lads, that’s enough. That’s like a win in our position.
“We went up the other end and said we’re going to score the third.
“When they scored, we wound ourselves up even more and then they got a fourth and it went from that point.
“That lack of discipline and understanding as a team, was the biggest concern for me.
“I didn’t think we deserved to be 2-0 down, but having clawed our way back from that with two very good goals, we’ve really thrown it away.”