SUNDERLAND are considering sticking with their experimental 5-3-2 formation for Monday’s crunch clash against West Ham.
Head coach Gus Poyet sprang a surprise at Liverpool on Monday night when he trialed a new system in a bid to thwart the free-scoring title-challengers.
Even though Sunderland succumbed to a fourth defeat in five Premier League outings, there was a marked improvement in the Black Cats’ performance.
But despite the formation incorporating an extra defender, first-team coach Charlie Oatway does not necessarily believe it would be a negative step to continue with five at the back, particularly considering how close Sunderland came to nicking a point at Anfield.
And Oatway admits Poyet and his coaching staff are contemplating whether to stick with the new approach for Monday’s visit of the Hammers, in a game where Sunderland can ill-afford to register anything less than victory.
“I think with the outcome at Liverpool and the way we played, it’s certainly something we can look at,” Oatway told the Echo.
“We’re under no illusions, Liverpool missed a couple of chances. But overall over the 90 minutes, we gave a good account of ourselves.
“Even considering the attacking options, the formation worked.
“It wasn’t as if we sat back and did what we’ve had done to us at the Stadium of Light a couple of times this season.
“We caused them a few problems.
“You’re playing with wing-backs, they’re not full-backs.
“They start off higher up the pitch so it gives you that bit of extra width in certain aspects.
“It’s definitely not something to throw out of the window.”
Poyet had considered using five at the back for the Capital One Cup final earlier this month before ultimately opting to stick with the 4-1-4-1 formation which he has favoured since arriving at the Stadium of Light in October.
But after speaking with his backroom team, Poyet decided to experiment in a bid to ensure the Premier League’s top two scorers - Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge - were not given space to exploit.
“Gus is very confident with the way that he picks his side, how he wants to play and how to combat the teams we play against,” added Oatway.
“But we had a couple of conversations about it.
“It’s difficult because you’re playing against arguably the top two centre-forwards in the league and we didn’t want to leave anyone isolated against them.
“I’m sure 99 per cent of people would have written us off before a ball had been kicked.
“But we had a good response. Obviously we went 2-0 down, but it was a new formation to the boys and they bought into it and had a chance to nick a point at the end.”