Wise Men Say: Sunderland’s tactical change brings benefits all over the park

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ON Friday afternoon, Gus Poyet stated he’d be looking to change the system he’s kept faith with for so long, as a result of the arrival of Jermain Defoe.

No changes would be immediate though, and he’d be sticking with what everyone knew best at White Hart Lane.

One of the systems suggested, three centre-backs with wing-backs, was dismissed completely.

So Sunderland lined up against Spurs with three centre-backs and wing-backs.

My colleague, Stephen Goldsmith, ended up looking a little bit silly as a result.

I’m sure he was happy to be a pawn in Poyet’s master plan.

Unfortunately, Sunderland didn’t get the result they were desperately looking for.

The system looked shaky to being with, but the team grew into it as the game went on.

While it wasn’t vintage stuff for the lads, there were the green shoots of something potentially fruitful.

Personally, I really like 3-5-2. I think, in terms of modern football, it’s probably the most attacking system you can play.

It frees up players like Adam Johnson to roam and dictate, while giving you the solid base of a three-man midfield which is vitally important for teams like Sunderland.

It gives you the width with a full-backs bombing on.

When Sunderland tried this system last year, it didn’t really work for a number of reasons.

One of them was that we didn’t really have the quality in the full-back positions.

Now we have Van Aanholt and Jones in those areas, a more advanced role probably suits them best, and the third centre-half can drop in when they bomb on.

The set-up also gives Defoe the partner he so desperately needs if he is to succeed on Wearside.

The England international looked sharp, especially considering he hasn’t kicked a ball competitively since October.

His movement was good, and he should have had a penalty when he was dumped the ground by Jan Vertonghen.

He looked leggy, and Danny Graham entered the fray.

To be fair to Danny, he showed more than Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher did in his short cameo.

He’ll be cursing his tame effort that went straight into the goalkeeper’s hands, and was particularly unlucky with his late strike that would have seen Sunderland nick a point.

Graham has come under heavy scrutiny during his time at the club, more for what he hasn’t done than what he has.

He’s not really had a chance for 18 months either.

But when you look at some of his play it makes you ask the question; had he been given as many chances as Jozy Altidore, would he have made more of an impact?

I know it’s revisionist, but Graham has looked useful in spite of limited chances.

If he’d stolen a point or three on Saturday, then Poyet may have had an even bigger selection headache when it comes to his frontline.

In my view, Graham did enough on Saturday to warrant consideration.

Hopefully he can put a bit of pressure on the lacklustre Wickham at least.

* The Wise Men Say podcast is available every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction from Gus Poyet. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes.