Sunderland coach opens up on the switch to a new system - and how it has helped transform results
Phil Parkinson came in for criticism from some quarters when the new shape and system was first introduced over fears it was too defensive.
Playing three at the back, wing-backs and a couple of central midfielders was deemed too defensive for a group of players that was hoped would secure automatic promotion this season.
And with Sunderland struggling in 15th after the drab goalless draw with Bolton Wanderers, the club’s lowest ever league placing, the criticism was understandable.
But the players have settled into their new system since and climbed the table with Denver Hume and Luke O’Nien acting as wingers when Sunderland have possession, the system effectively a 3-4-3.
It has also helped free Chris Maguire and Lynden Gooch to get closer to Charlie Wyke with more bodies in the box.
The festive form that saw eight points secured from 12 has raised hopes the Black Cats could be close to turning their season round.
For assistant manager Steve Parkin, he has passionately backed the system and insists it is “very attack-minded”.
The management team have had to strike a balance between the hectic schedule, while also not wishing to tinker with the shape or personnel too much.
Parkin said: “The one thing that we probably didn’t have when we came in was the chance to find a system that suited us, because we kept on picking up injuries.
“The good thing about it is that we can adapt. We can flip to a four when we need to and it still looks effective and it still looks dangerous.
“Any kind of shape that you work on does take time to evolve and one thing about this system, any thought that it is negative can’t be further from the truth.
“It is very attack-minded, with two players who are supporting Charlie on a regular basis so he is not isolated, there are two wide players looking to get crosses in but also get in at the back stick themselves.
“And it’s got centre-halves who can join in like full-backs, so I think that anyone who believes it is a negative way to play has obviously not seen us in the last few games.”