David Moyes says the speed of Sunderland’s counter-attacks will be key to landing results in the absence of Victor Anichebe.
After a wretched start to the season, the Nigerian targetman helped the Black Cats find a style that suited them and his build-up play helped bring the best out of a number of players in the squad.
They have won just once since his injury at Burnley on New Year’s Eve, often struggling to build sustained attacking pressure on the opposition and get higher up the field.
To that end, Moyes was thrilled by the third and fourth goals in the recent 4-0 win at Crystal Palace, with sweeping counters from his side’s own half carving open the hosts.
That made last weekend’s 4-0 defeat to Southampton all the more frustrating, but Moyes will be hoping that the Black Cats can pick up where they left off on the road when they head to Everton this Saturday.
Moyes said: “We may have to play a little bit on the counter-attack and play quite fast football.
“We spoke to the players about it and I think they understand.
“We’re trying to get more balls in the box, more people in the box. It’s the only way we’re going to score goals.
“As well as, say, Adnan or Fabio and Jermain, we’re trying to get some of the midfield players further up.
“Ndong got himself a goal [at Selhurst Park], albeit from outside the box.
“We’re having to really try and find a way.”
Part of that search has been to switch to a 3-5-2 formation, Jason Denayer dropping from midfield to play as a third centre-back and allowing Seb Larsson to move infield and bolster the spine of the team.
The results, perhaps unsurprisingly given Sunderland’s struggles, have been inconsistent.
Against Southampton, they started the game well and played some encouraging football out from the back, but, in the second half, which saw a switch to a back four, they lost their way badly.
There have been impressive recent results and performances against Spurs and Palace, but equally insipid displays at Turf Moor and The Hawthorns.
Moyes believes the bolstered defence is a solution but says he will continue to mix things up to prevent his side becoming predictable and to try and find answers to the on-field problems that have left Sunderland at the bottom of the Premier League table.
He said: “I think so [3-5-2 being a solution]. What I do think is it will change. It will change again because of what the opposition can do to you, maybe you’re chasing a game and you need to do it in a different way, you need to look at different things.
“But I think when we lost Victor, that was the key to it.
“We needed to keep looking for another way to get up the pitch, to have two forwards playing and not to be too exposed defensively.
“Because we had been making mistakes and conceding goals, I had to make sure we could shore it up a little bit as well.”