Sam Allardyce is already considering how to best accommodate Jermain Defoe after predecessors Gus Poyet and Dick Advocaat both struggled to find a solution.
Since arriving at the Stadium of Light in January, Defoe has netted a reasonable six goals in 23 Premier League starts, with two of those arriving in the first three games of this season.
Where do you get the opportunity to play 4-4-2 nowadays? Not very oftenSam Allardyce
But Poyet and then Advocaat failed to find a set-up which brought the best out of the 33-year-old’s goalscoring prowess, with neither boss favouring an orthodox 4-4-2 formation.
Defoe played out wide during Advocaat’s spell at the end of last season and then didn’t convince the Dutchman this time around as the lone striker in his favoured 4-3-3 set-up – prompting him to leave the England international on the bench for the final three games of his tenure.
It’s a dilemma which Allardyce has been pondering during his first week at the helm, prior to his opening game in charge at West Brom on Saturday.
But Allardyce believes that if Sunderland can remain defensively solid in a 4-4-2, then there is no reason why it shouldn’t be an option.
“It’s something that has preyed on my mind,” said Allardyce.
“Where do you get the opportunity to play 4-4-2 nowadays? Not very often.
“I’ll have to try to work that out.
“But if the other eight players can cope behind a Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe partnership, then it’s a possibility.
“If they can’t cope, then it might mean that Fletcher and Defoe score, but the opposition score three.
“If we only score two, then it’s a waste of time.”
Fletcher is in pole position to continue leading the line at The Hawthorns after the 28-year-old netted four goals in two Euro 2016 qualifiers for Scotland during the international break.
That haul for his country came after the striker scored Sunderland’s opener against West Ham 12 days ago after being recalled to the starting XI, and produced one of his best performances in a red and white shirt in the process.
Allardyce hopes Fletcher will have received a suitable confidence boost from those goals in the last fortnight and has stressed the importance of Sunderland’s strikers to their survival mission.
“One massive positive is Steven Fletcher scoring goals,” added Allardyce.
“I saw the goal he scored against West Ham and then he’s scored at international level.
“The two most important guys on the football pitch are the goalkeeper and the goalscorer. That starts you to build a spine.
“We’ve got goalscorers and if they carry on, we just have to stop them going in at the other end – and that’s an easier task than scoring goals, I’ll tell you.”