Sunderland boss Simon Grayson comments on formations and admits that Norwich are a mystery
One of the key reasons Sunderland's opening night draw was so well received, and there were many, was the all-too-rare sight of a genuine strike partnership.
Whether Lewis Grabban and James Vaughan stay as Grayson’s first choices throughout the season depends much on what happens in the coming weeks of the transfer window, but they showed enough to earn a spot at Carrow Road in tomorrow’s Championship clash against new-look Norwich City.
Grayson’s selection against Derby made for a competitive occasion, an entertaining, open contest in which Sunderland’s shot count rocketed.
So it is a viable option for tough away games, such as those coming up against Norwich tomorrow and Sheffield Wednesday in midweek?
“You’ll have to wait and see,” Grayson said, when asked about his plans to take on the Canaries.
“It’s something I’ve done all my career – I’ve never been one to say right, we’re playing 4-4-2 all season.
“I played lots of different styles at Preston, depending on who is available and the opposition.
“You want players who can be flexible even in a game, so you change without substitutions.
The influx of foreign managers into the second tier, including the Canaries’ new addition Daniel Farke, has seen far greater tactical experimentation.
Nevertheless, there have been plenty of examples to demonstrate the value of a more traditional system.
“I won’t say we will play with two up front all the time, but it is a positive and something we think can benefit us,” Grayson said.
“You want to play in the opposition’s final third.
“Out of possession, we don’t leave two strikers up front – one drops back in so you can get that extra body in midfield.
“If you do it right, and the players are coached, it can work to play like that. You saw Burnley and Brighton play exactly the same way and get promoted.”
Quite how Norwich City will line up come tomorrow lunchtime remains to be seen.
The summer has seen a number of high-profile changes at the Norfolk club, not just in the dug-out.
A group of players who had been together for a number of seasons, including promotions and relegations, have been broken up, with established players such as John Ruddy and Johnny Howson moved on.
Stuart Webber, the man responsible for appointing David Wagner at Huddersfield, brought Farke to Carrow Road and a number of players from the German league have followed.
For Grayson, it means preparations have not been as meticulous as he would like.
“To be honest, no, [I don’t know what to expect.],” admitte the former Preston boss.
“With him coming out of the German league and the work that they do, it is hard to get the preparation work done as you would want to.
“There is a hardcore of British players that we know about and that were at Norwich last year, but certainly new players have come in.
“Against Fulham last weekend, he started with three centre-backs, changed at half-time, and then went to a back four on Tuesday night in the cup against Swindon Town.
“So we’re a little bit in the dark about what system he will play, but really we need to concentrate on what we need to do.
“We need to build on the two results we have had so far, and keep going along in a positive manner.
“We’re in a good state of mind at the moment, given the way that we’ve played and the results we have had.
“I think they (Norwich) probably underachieved last year with the parachute payments they received and the Premier League players they have got.
“We’re going to go there and respect the opposition, but ultimately to do whatever is required to get a good result.”
* Hammarby have confirmed the signing of left-back Oscar Krusnell from Sunderland on a three-year deal.
The 18-year-old defender joined the Black Cats from AIK Solna in June 2015 but didn’t break through into the first-team picture, playing predominantly for the Under-18 side.
“He is the leading left-back in his age range,” said Hammarby sports director Jesper Jansson.
“He is a resident of the youth team and is the leading left-back in his age team.”