Will Sunderland play three at the back against Coventry? Phil Parkinson reveals his thoughts

Phil Parkinson was pleased with how his Sunderland side adapted to playing three at the back against Gillingham.

Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 10:00 am

And, while Sunderland are expected to return to a back four as they welcome Coventry City to the Stadium of Light this afternoon, Parkinson believes the 3-5-2 shape could prove a useful option as they return to League One action.

The change in shape at Gillingham was partly down to necessity given the Black Cats’ injury woes, with Parkinson limited at the back.

But the Sunderland chief hasn’t ruled out using the system in coming weeks, insisting that Sunderland have the players to switch between formations with ease.

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Phil Parkinson was pleased with how Sunderland operated at Gillingham - after switching to three at the back

“We played it at Oxford and I was generally pleased,” he admitted.

“I think we’ve got players who can play in that system - Tom Flanagan played that position for Northern Ireland; Conor McLaughlin has played at right wing-back and on the right of a three in his career; Lynch…

“We’ve got players who can play that, so you have to have the option of switching to that.

“3-5-2 can get you two strikers right at the top of the pitch as well, as other teams have done, so it’s an option.”

At the heart of the back three at Priestfield was the returning Alim Ozturk - with Parkinson keen to single-out the Turk for praise after an impressive performance after being thrust prematurely back into the fold.

The Sunderland boss said: “I’ve got to give Alim a mention, because with everything going on the other night you have to remember that we asked him to play when, by rights, he was way off match fitness.

“I thought he did well and he did very well to last ninety minutes. His groin tightened up, but I have a lot of respect for Alim.

“Physically he needs more work to be really ready, but he put himself up to play and understood the situation we were in.”

Ozturk is unlikely to start against the Sky Blues, with Tom Flanagan, Joel Lynch and Jordan Willis all returning to the squad after international duty and injury problems meant they were unavailable at Gillingham.