DICK Advocaat has pledged to stick with a 4-3-3 set-up for the remainder of Sunderland’s survival bid.
Sunderland have been much-improved in their last two games, with a four-point haul giving the Black Cats a chance of beating the drop, when anything less could have proved fatal to their hopes of extending their Premier League tenure.
We will stick with the 4-3-3 now because we realised at Stoke that we couldn’t handle the three midfielders they had.Dick Advocaat
Head coach Advocaat had experimented with an orthodox 4-4-2 at Stoke two weeks ago, before reverting to 4-3-3 for the second half, with striker Danny Graham operating as a battering ram up front.
That prompted a 45 minute performance which Advocaat believed was as good as any produced this season, with Sunderland building on that platform by registering a crucial victory against Southampton last weekend.
Advocaat – who has favoured 4-3-3 throughout his managerial career – will now keep that system in place, believing it offers Sunderland the midfield balance which brings the most out of the players at his disposal.
He told the Gazette: “Yes, we will stick with the 4-3-3 now because we realised at Stoke that we couldn’t handle the three midfielders they had.
“The majority of the teams in England are playing 4-3-3 now, but that does not necessarily make it the easiest way!
“You can’t always look towards the strikers to win a game.
“You can control a game if you can control midfield.
“It belongs together – midfield, strikers and defence. If one or two don’t understand how to gel with that, then it’s difficult.
“You need the midfielders who can run beyond the strikers.”
The other notable difference over the last two games has been an improvement in sheer determination from Sunderland’s players, with Advocaat’s men clearly fighting to avoid the drop.
More of that commitment will be required at Goodison Park on Saturday, if the third bottom Black Cats are to end Everton’s run of six consecutive home wins.
But Advocaat is heartened to see that his side do have the mental strength to secure their survival, with Sunderland potentially needing another four points from their final four games.
“They’ve done it the last two weeks in giving everything they’ve got,” he added.
“They’re doing it in training as well, otherwise it makes it easier for me (to make changes).
“It was an honour to sit on the bench last weekend, and that has given us a better feeling this week.”