Dick Advocaat admits he faces a Catch-22 situation over whether to involve Sunderland’s rusty players.
But the Sunderland boss believes that by throwing those short on match sharpness straight into the fray now, it will pay long-term dividends for the Black Cats this season.
How can I get them match fit if I don’t let them play?
Advocaat handed first starts of the campaign to Fabio Borini, Ola Toivonen and Jordi Gomez in last weekend’s defeat to Spurs and the trio played key roles in helping Sunderland produce by far their most convincing display of the opening five Premier League games.
But neither Borini or Gomez had enjoyed a proper pre-season, while Toivonen had made just one substitute’s appearance for Rennes before arriving at the Stadium of Light, and that lack of game-time told in the final half-hour when all three were forced off and Sunderland were hit by a sucker punch.
Those dipping energy levels prompted criticism from some television pundits that Advocaat should have drip-fed the trio into the starting XI, with summer signings Yann M’Vila, Younes Kaboul and Jeremain Lens all still trying to reach maximum fitness too.
Advocaat is aware of the gamble in playing those lacking game-time, yet he also believes that if they don’t start Premier League encounters, then their sharpness isn’t going to improve.
“How can I get them match fit if I don’t let them play?” he said.
“At a certain moment, they will pay it back to us, I have no doubts about that.
“I have not seen many games from us when we’ve played the way we did against Spurs – attacking-wise, the passing and the spirit in the team.
“That’s more how I like to play.
“We just needed the goals at the right time and the right moment.
“If the fans are proud of you when you lose a game, it will only get better.
“The points will come, that’s football.”
Advocaat could have another couple of rusty players at his disposal for this Saturday’s trip to newly-promoted Bournemouth, as second bottom Sunderland continue their search for a first top flight victory of the campaign.
On-loan Spurs full-back DeAndre Yedlin, who was able to boost his fitness with a couple of games for the USA earlier this month, is available after he was ineligible to make his Sunderland debut against his parent club last weekend.
And Adam Johnson is an outside bet for a place on the bench after returning to full training on Monday.
Johnson hasn’t played since the opening day defeat at Leicester due to a dislocated shoulder, but the winger has been able to remain active during his lay-off due to the nature of the injury.