Sunderland will go on the front foot from the opening bell in tomorrow’s Wear-Tyne derby, with a more attacking hand at Sam Allardyce’s disposal.
New manager Allardyce opted to keep things tight for his first game in charge of Sunderland at West Brom last weekend, in a bid to halt the Black Cats’ defensive vulnerability which has been a prime reason behind their place at the bottom of the Premier League.
We need to do more in possession to make life as difficult as possible for Newcastle to have any controlSam Allardyce
But Allardyce will be more adventurous for his opening home game tomorrow lunchtime, and has the options to do that, albeit derby hero Fabio Borini could miss out on the visit of the Magpies.
Borini was due to undergo a fitness test on an ankle injury today, which has ruled him out of training this week and prevented him running without pain.
However, Ola Toivonen and Jeremain Lens are available again after injury and suspension respectively, while Jermain Defoe – last season’s Wear-Tyne derby hero – is in Allardyce’s thoughts.
Allardyce told the Echo: “There’s options in terms of more flair players, better equipped to create a few more chances.
“If there was one thing which was disappointing at West Brom, we could have created an awful lot more with the amount of possession we had.
“I can’t argue with them (West Brom) having two shots on target, away from home. We want to have that solid base, and we showed a very solid base.
“But that won’t matter for the derby. Tactically, that’s not going to work.
“We’re going to have to show a different tactic tomorrow than the one we had at West Brom.
“We need to do more in possession to make life as difficult as possible for Newcastle to have any control.
“That’s very important, particularly in the early part of the game.”
Allardyce - who could also have Jack Rodwell available after a groin injury - believes the mental battle will be a key ingredient in the outcome of tomorrow’s game too.
Sunderland have handled the pressure of the derby cauldron in stunning fashion over the last two-and-a-half seasons after a record-equalling five successive wins over Newcastle.
And Allardyce wants the survivors of those victories - three of which, Seb Larsson, John O’Shea and Adam Johnson have featured in all five - to draw on those experiences to make it six-in-a-row.
“The players have to have it in their long-term memory to draw on it again,” added Allardyce.
“Recently, the club has not been in a great position in the Premier League, but still managed to pull off this victory.
“That goes with the old adage about it doesn’t matter what form you’re in, when it comes to a derby, form doesn’t matter.
“It’s about who does it on the day.
“Obviously, Sunderland have consistently been able to manage the occasion better than Newcastle and the results prove that.
“That’s what we have to do again.
“If we handle the occasion better than Newcastle, then we give ourselves a much better chance to win.
“And then of course, your skills come into play. If you create that chance, can you take it?
“If you can’t, it could be a heavy miss.
“Last year, it was one of the best pieces of skill and best goals seen not just in the derby, but in the Premier League, with Jermain Defoe’s goal.
“If we can see a bit of that, it would be wonderful!”