Gus has gotta make formation add up for Sunderland

Gus Poyet
Gus Poyet
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GUS Poyet insists he has to pick a system appropriate for the players at his disposal after returning to an orthodox 4-4-2.

Poyet stuck with a traditional 4-4-2 formation for the second successive game in last weekend’s stalemate against West Brom after a month of experimenting with Sunderland’s system following the January capture of Jermain Defoe.

The head coach spent the entirety of pre-season, plus the first half of the campaign, fine-tuning a 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 system, which remains the Uruguayan’s favoured approach.

But with Defoe more suited to playing in a strike pair, and out-of-soughts Jordi Gomez the only attacking midfielder fit, Poyet believes the personnel that are currently available has made it more viable to go with a 4-4-2.

Poyet said: “If I go first with the system and then I pick the players, everyone would be mad at me.

“You have to adapt to the players, not the system.

“The four and two three’s is my idea, it’s the one that makes us most solid.

“You can have that special player wide who can become a second striker.

“We tried it with Connor (Wickham) and it worked for a few weeks, but not enough.

“Now we’ve got Jermain so we’re adapting.”

Poyet will have to decide whether to persist with a 4-4-2 for Saturday’s trip to Manchester United, who despite question marks over their progression under Louis van Gaal, have taken 30 from a possible 39 points at Old Trafford this season.

But Poyet will not be returning to using three at the back – a formation favoured by van Gaal when he first took charge of Man United last summer.

Using three centre-halves has been fashionable in the Premier League this season, with QPR, Hull and United all experimenting with it, although Liverpool have been the only side to enjoy genuine success with the approach.

“The three at the back was a good try,” said Poyet, who deployed three central defenders in the defeat at Spurs and the FA Cup fourth round tie against Fulham.

“There are certain things I really like about that system.

“It’s not me. I’ve been four at the back all my life and I will stay like that.

“But it’s the personnel.

“I’m watching plenty of teams that play three at the back nowadays.

“You can go to Juventus who have been very successful playing like that.

“Nobody has won the Premier League with three at the back ever, but I think Liverpool have done very well changing to three. Maybe because of the personnel.

“Us, I wasn’t really convinced what the wing-backs really give you in that system.

“They need to be more offensive than defensive, more wingers than full-backs.

“We didn’t find that situation right.”