Simon Grayson admits he is still searching for greater versatility after Sunderland’s first competitive defeat of the season.
The Black Cats ‘ran out of ideas’, in their manager’s own words, as Leeds United completed a comfortable 2-0 win.
A lack of squad depth has seen Grayson name the same side and the same system for all four league games, unusual for a manager who craves being tacitically unpredictable.
The Sunderland boss hopes to strengthen the squad in the coming ten days to give him different options across the pitch, particularly in the final third.
“We’re trying to work with the current players, but you need versatility for different systems,” he said.
“When you’re playing two in midfield it sometimes doesn’t let you play the passing game because you can be outnumbered.
“If we play three in there, we will probably keep the ball better but then you might only have one up front and you lose out in terms of a goal threat.
“It’s about finding the right balance and utilising the strengths of the system that you are playing.
“When you’re at home and you are losing, you need to change things. You saw that on Saturday where we changed the formation and changed the personnel to try to make something happen,” he added.
“You have to give credit to Leeds as well, because we were trying to break down a team that had really experienced defenders in this division from Anita to Jansson and Ayling and Cooper – they don’t give up a lead easily, as we haven’t in the games we’ve had away from home.”
Grayson has also surprised fans with his reluctance to make substitutions, though he did make a double change early in the second half against Leeds United.
The Sunderland boss admits he does not have the depth to change games as many other sides in the league currently do.
He said: “Games can be won by players coming off the bench and making an impact.
“When you look at some squads in the Championship, games will be won from the bench.
“Maybe we don’t have lads on the bench with the same experience that some of the other sides have.
“When you look at Asoro and Gooch, for example, they haven’t played loads and loads of games in their career.
“The other side of the coin, of course, is that they do bring youthful exuberance, but experience is a help too.
“When the window shuts and we have one or two players back from injury, I think our squad will be stronger in general.”
Grayson was left frustrated by his side’s lack of composure in the final third against Leeds United, and will give Wahbi Khazri a chance to impress in the League Cup against Carlisle on Tuesday night.
It is an issue that has concerned Grayson since his arrival and will be looking to correct in the coming weeks.
“It’s something we’ve looked at since pre-season – you have to make the right decisions in both boxes if you’re going to win matches,” he said.
“On Saturday, too many times we took the wrong option.
“But I don’t think it was necessarily fatigue, because it happened in the first half, too.
“Vaughany shot from 30 yards when he should have played McGeady in, Didier had a long shot when we should have kept it simple,” he added.
“If you shoot from 30-odd yards in the last five minutes, that can be down to fatigue, but really in this case I think it is just that we need to be brighter and smarter about what we are doing and try to hurt the opposition more.”
l If Sunderland progress to the third round of the Carabao Cup fans face an early morning alarm clock to discover their next opponents.
Sunderland travel to League Two Carlisle United tonight and if they make it through fans in this country will discover the next opponents on Thursday - at 4.15am!
That’s because the draw for the third round of the competition will take place in Beijing, China, on Thursday morning.
A Football League statement said: “The draw will take place from approximately 11:15am local time, 4:15am BST and can be followed live on the EFL’s Carabao Cup twitter feed.”
Thirty-two clubs are involved in round three, with the seven Premier League sides who qualified for UEFA European competitions entering the draw, including last season’s winners Manchester United.