Sebastian Coates believes his background in Uruguay has helped him adapt to Sunderland’s back three and the return to the form he showed at the end of last season.
Coates’ performances in the final six games of last year’s escape from the drop persuaded Sunderland to shell out £2million to re-sign the 25-year-old from Liverpool in the summer, yet he looked distinctly shaky at the start of the season.
I’ve played in a back three in Uruguay, so I know the systemSebastian Coates
However, Sam Allardyce’s switch to a 3-5-2 has paid dividends for Coates – plus fellow signing Younes Kaboul – with the centre-half proving to be one of Sunderland’s most consistent performers over recent games.
Coates had played in a back three at boyhood club Nacional and has quickly adapted to the system alongside Kaboul and skipper John O’Shea.
He said: “I’ve played in a back three in Uruguay, so I know the system. You see a lot more teams playing with the three there.
“Obviously the players change, but the system is okay for me.
“John leads the back four and provides the voice, and I think the three of us have done well together.
“For me, it’s really important to be playing every week.
“I didn’t get the chances to play regularly when I first came to England, but now I feel confident with my performances and my fitness.
“I think it’s a mix of being sharper and more confident that he has seen me get back to the form from the end of last season too.
“I feel good in myself and that’s given me the belief to play.
“It also helps that the team is playing well, which is important.”
Former centre-half Allardyce has spent the bulk of his time on the training ground working with Sunderland’s back-line over the last two months, with one day a week set aside for team shape.
But Coates has welcomed the preparation and homework which has become part and parcel of life at the Academy of Light.
“I enjoy doing the homework for the games,” he added.
“We’re always spending a day during the week on the team shape, but that’s perfect.
“We need the organisation and to work on the shape.
“The manager knows what it takes to play as a centre-back, so he’s always giving us information.
“When he came, he knew the players and why it wasn’t a good time.
“But he gave confidence to everyone.
“You need to push hard and work hard to get a place on the team sheet, and that’s the way it should be.”