Chris Young’s SAFC verdict: System reboot gives Sunderland lift-off

Adam Johnson joins Connor Wickham to celebrate the striker's opening goal in today's win over Burnley
Adam Johnson joins Connor Wickham to celebrate the striker's opening goal in today's win over Burnley
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EVERYONE can get bogged down with the numerical nuances of formations.

The intricacies of 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3, 3-5-2 or 4-1-3-2 can take the spotlight away from what really matters. Are enough goals scored? Are too many goals conceded?

Since the capture of Jermain Defoe, the debate has raged anew over how best to accommodate the England striker and ensures he receives the sufficient service to make his poaching prowess relevant.

Should Gus Poyet opt for a diamond midfield, or go for a more radical approach with three at the back and two up front?

In the end, the system which brought Sunderland a HUGE three points in the dogfight at the bottom half of the table was not too dissimilar to the 4-1-4-1 used prior to Defoe’s signing.

Perhaps that was no surprise. After all, Sunderland’s players are on first name terms with that set-up, rather than having to start from scratch in mid-season with a fresh approach.

But there were some noticeable differences in the way Sunderland set-up.

Adam Johnson and Connor Wickham tucked inside to support Defoe, Jordi Gomez and Seb Larsson pushed much further forward and both full-backs bombed on, with Burnley struggling to track either Anthony Reveillere or particularly Patrick van Aanholt.

It wasn’t so much about Defoe being used in an orthodox front two. It was just that Sunderland got bodies in and around the 32-year-old.

After the dreadful drudgery witnessed against Fulham and Liverpool, Poyet went for a positive approach and got his rewards.

An opening goal inside the first 25 minutes undoubtedly helped after Ashley Barnes spurned a golden chance to give Burnley the lead moments earlier.

Wickham’s fourth of the season settled Sunderland’s nerves and they immediately began to pass the ball around with more confidence.

The addition of a second before the interval - a typical poacher’s finish from Defoe - gave Sunderland the healthy buffer that they needed.

The second half was a non-event, yet that was just what Sunderland needed. Seeing the game through without conceding or suffering any late drama will have further boosted the confidence of Poyet’s side.

Now, Sunderland can attack Tuesday’s FA Cup replay with relish.

But looking beyond that, the end of Sunderland’s barren four-month run in the Premier League at the Stadium of Light could be a major turning point in avoiding an end-of-season nail-biter at the foot of the table.

With QPR coming to Wearside on the back of their 10th defeat out of 10 on the road, followed by a home clash against sixth bottom West Brom, Sunderland needed to start beating those sides around them in the dogfight.

Victory over Burnley was just what the doctor ordered to cure Sunderland’s home sickness.