Sunderland’s Johnson believes in a five-man midfield

Sunderland's Adam Johnson celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. PRESS ASSOCATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday January 12, 2013. See PA story SOCCER Sunderland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.
Sunderland's Adam Johnson celebrates scoring during the Barclays Premier League match at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland. PRESS ASSOCATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday January 12, 2013. See PA story SOCCER Sunderland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. Maximum 45 images during a match. No video emulation or promotion as 'live'. No use in games, competitions, merchandise, betting or single club/player services. No use with unofficial audio, video, data, fixtures or club/league logos.
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ADAM JOHNSON believes Gus Poyet’s five-man midfield system is Sunderland’s best route to moving off the Premier League’s basement.

Poyet has used a lone striker in each of Sunderland’s last three games after deciding to add an extra body in the middle of the park.

The Black Cats head coach suggested last week that he was open to the prospect of reverting to a more orthodox system of two central strikers, with Jozy Altidore partnering Steven Fletcher up front.

But Johnson says it is easier to operate with three central midfielders, with Sunderland’s best performances this season stemming from a 4-5-1 system.

“I think a lot of the top teams now all have five man midfields,” the winger said.

“It’s so much easier if you’ve got an extra man in there, playing a three against a two.

“The extra man makes it better and the full-backs are then technically used as the wingers and then the wingers are almost strikers.

“It’s much easier to get up the pitch higher and quicker.

“That’s the way the game is going now.

“I’ve been in a two a couple of times against a three in training and it’s impossible sometimes to defend against if the other team can do it right.”

Fletcher has been given the nod as Sunderland’s lone striker over the last two games, with £6million summer signing Altidore restricted to late outings from the bench.

That is likely to remain the case for Saturday’s trip to Aston Villa, with Altidore yet to break his duck in the Premier League for the Black Cats.

But Johnson believes the contrast between Sunderland’s frontmen offers Poyet an advantage, with Fletcher, Altidore and Liverpool loanee Fabio Borini all providing very different threats.

“It can only be good that we’ve got different options in the final third,” added Johnson.

“We all have our different strengths and weaknesses, but our strikers can all get on it, play and drop deep.”