Sunderland v Watford: Three attacking dilemmas for Sam Allardyce

Adam Johnson
Adam Johnson
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Sam Allardyce has landed upon a successful formula, with the three at the back set-up producing a vast improvement in Sunderland’s fortunes.

But further forward, Allardyce has several dilemmas for tomorrow’s clash at Watford, with Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole sidelined, while Jermain Defoe has returned from injury.

Here’s three options available to the Sunderland boss:

1. Name an unchanged line-up

Sunderland have not boasted the same side for a competitive encounter since May 2014, with three successive managers chopping and changing to unearth a side which can perform consistently.

Allardyce has been eager to end that pattern, yet injuries and suspensions have hampered his efforts.

But despite Defoe’s return, Allardyce could feasibly stick with the 5-4-1 set-up which worked so well at Arsenal last weekend, with Duncan Watmore and Fabio Borini either side of Steven Fletcher - if the Scot is fit.

If Watmore, Borini and Ola Toivonen were all given more licence to stay high up the pitch, then Sunderland would have several attacking threats.

2. Hand Watmore a free role

Allardyce bemoaned the loss of Defoe against Arsenal, with Sunderland’s profligate finishing costing them the chance to earn any spoils from the Emirates.

Watmore was one of those guilty of spurning a glorious opportunity against the Gunners, yet the 21-year-old also put the Arsenal defence on the back foot throughout.

The England Under-21 international is acclimatising to the Premier League at a lightning rate and ideally, Allardyce wouldn’t want to leave him out against the Hornets.

But if Defoe is to revive his partnership with injury doubt Fletcher, where does that leave Watmore?

Does Allardyce gamble on an attacking line-up and hand Watmore the chance to wreak damage in behind the front two?

3. Give Jordi Gomez, Jack Rodwell or Adam Johnson a chance in midfield

The loss of Cattermole and Larsson prompted Allardyce to give Toivonen a chance in central midfield at Arsenal, and the Swedish international responded with a bright display.

Does Allardyce now give another of his fringe midfielders a chance alongside Toivonen and Yann M’Vila, while returning to an orthodox front two?

Rodwell is yet to start under Allardyce, while Gomez hasn’t featured since last month’s defeat against Southampton. Both will have to play a key role now that Cattermole and Larsson are out though.

The other option is to use Johnson as one of the central midfield trio – an option which Allardyce last used in the 6-2 rout at Everton...