ADAM Johnson is fully behind Paolo Di Canio’s long-term plans to play with over-lapping full-backs, believing it can only help the attacking options of the wingers and lead more goals.
Although it hasn’t come off this summer, the Black Cats have been in pursuit of full-backs who are comfortable playing in a more advanced, almost a wing-back role.
Current incumbents Jack Colback and Craig Gardner have been encouraged to overlap and cross more.
And director of football Roberto De Fanti and chief scout Valentino Angeloni have tried without success to bring in Benjamin Mendy - who opted to join Marseille at the eleventh hour, Lucas Orban who joined Bordeaux and Gino Peruzzi, who failed a medical.
All would have been naturally attack-minded full-backs and it is a shame none of the moves came off.
But Johnson believes that the club are on the right lines and is excited by Paolo Di Canio’s plans to revamp the squad this summer and build a team based on attacking football.
“If you look at all the top teams and the world and Barcelona are the one that play the best football, the full-backs are the wingers these days,” he pointed out.
“You very rarely see wingers standing right out wide these days, especially in top teams, the full-backs are the ones who cross the ball most on the pitch.
“That’s the way modern football’s going and he has made sure this summer that we all understand how he wants us to play.
“The manager wants the centre-backs to spread the play and I’m all in favour of that.
“Being in Manchester City’s team was all about passing and passing and keeping the ball - that’s what the top teams do.
“We’ve worked a lot on the wingers coming inside and the full-backs overlapping. To just mix it up really with different sorts of movements. If I can get on the ball infield it’s all to the good.”
Johnson also believes that the arrival of a player of the quality of Emanuele Giaccherini on the opposite flank can only make his own job easier in the coming campaign.
“Last season it was tight when you were getting the ball and there were a lot of numbers around individuals.
“But I think if we can switch the ball quickly like we’ve been working on as well, it gives the opponents less time to get across.
“You can face the opponents up then, and Giaccherini likes to play out wide as well so hopefully we’re going to stretch teams.
“He’s everything you’d expect from that type of player.
“His technique’s good, he can see a pass, he’s clever like most Italian attackers.
“I think he’s only going to get stronger as well when he plays a few games.
“He’s not scared of the physical side of it - against Tottenham in Hong Kong I remember he put a tackle in on Kyle Walker early on when a lot of players probably would have shied away.
“Instead, he got going and got stuck in - I think he’ll go from strength to strength.”