Dick Advocaat has hinted that he will have to ditch his favoured 4-3-3 formation, if Sunderland fail to bring in another frontman this month.
Sunderland’s 4-2 drubbing at Leicester City on Saturday sharpened the need for further recruits at the Stadium of Light before the end of the transfer window after the Black Cats produced a capitulation that was every bit as bad as last season’s routs against Crystal Palace, Southampton and Aston Villa.
If we do something, we have to play with a real striker there, otherwise 4-3-3 is not good enough.
Almost £20million has been spent so far by Sunderland this summer, yet after recouping £9m from the sale of Connor Wickham, chairman Ellis Short may need to further loosen the purse strings to avoid another season of struggle.
Head coach Advocaat is evidently in the market for another attacking midfielder after seeing a move for Leroy Fer fall through last week.
Sunderland have brought in Yann M’Vila - who was sent off for a headbutt on his Black Cats bow for the Under-21s yesterday - yet the French international is earmarked for a deeper role by Advocaat.
But Advocaat is also understood to be desperate to bring in a new striker, who is capable of leading the line in a 4-3-3.
Sunderland were again linked with Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes over the weekend, yet Advocaat wants a more physical presence up front.
Jermain Defoe started as a lone striker against Leicester, yet the former England international was more effective in a two-man strike-force.
Steven Fletcher came from the bench to partner Defoe in an orthodox 4-4-2 after half-an-hour and also found the net, yet the Scottish international’s situation remains uncertain with less than 12 months left on his contract.
Advocaat wants to stick with a lone striker, but admits he may have to have a rethink with the players currently at his disposal.
“The second half was a little bit better with Defoe not on his own up there,” said Advocaat.
“With Fletcher, it’s a different story, so maybe we have to change that. Defoe on his own is not possible.
“I know that and I tried, but it’s not possible. If we do something, we have to play with a real striker there, otherwise 4-3-3 is not good enough.”
Advocaat has picked his words carefully when asked about the need for further reinforcements, with the Dutchman keen to avoid the rash statements of predecessor Gus Poyet.
But Jeremain Lens has been the only big-money addition to a side which finished just three points above the relegation places last season.
And the implication is clear from Advocaat that those already at his disposal have been giving their maximum, with a lack of quality to blame for Sunderland’s annual struggles.
“These guys they give everything, honestly,” he added.
“Last year, they worked their socks off, but some people are playing at the maximum of their game.”