Sunderland full-backs must deliver if 4-3-3 system is to save them

Patrick Van Aanholt in action for Sunderland during their 4-1 loss at the hand of Crystal Palace. Picture by FRANK REID
Patrick Van Aanholt in action for Sunderland during their 4-1 loss at the hand of Crystal Palace. Picture by FRANK REID

DICK ADVOCAAT says his full-backs have to provide the supply lines, if Sunderland’s 4-3-3 system is to keep them in the Premier League.

Advocaat has used Steven Fletcher, Jermain Defoe and Connor Wickham in a front three for each of his three games in charge of Sunderland, with the latter two netting a goal-apiece.

Rather than deploying two orthodox widemen either side of a central striker – as was the case under Advocaat’s predecessor Gus Poyet – the ex-Holland manager has urged Defoe and Wickham to get in and around Fletcher far more frequently.

However, it has not prompted an upturn in Sunderland’s attacking threat, with the Black Cats still boasting the second worst goal return in the Premier League.

Advocaat wants full-backs Patrick van Aanholt and Billy Jones – introduced at the expense of Anthony Reveillere to offer more going forwards – to get into the advanced positions and provide the delivery from out wide.

He said: “It’s very important that the full-backs get forward because of the freedom it gives the wingers.

“They are not regular wingers.

“If they come inside, then someone else has to go wide, and not a midfielder, a full-back.

“That’s the reason I have changed it.

“They (the full-backs) have to provide the crosses and width, not Defoe or Wickham.

“Of course, yes, they will cross sometimes.

“But I don’t want them to regularly be the wide players.

“That is more or less the tactics we are playing.”

Van Aanholt was one of the few to come away from Sunderland’s 4-1 humiliation against Crystal Palace last weekend with a modicum of credit after the Dutchman at least didn’t surrender following the second-half collapse.

The ex-Chelsea left-back provided the assist to Connor Wickham’s consolation before hitting the bar himself in stoppage time.

However, that contribution was little consolation to van Aanholt after Sunderland once more burst the hopes of supporters following the previous weekend’s Wear-Tyne derby euphoria.

“It happened late on in the game when it was already 4-0,” said van Aanholt.

“I tried to do my best, but it was disappointing.

“But I’ve got confidence in our squad that we can move on and do well for the rest of the season.”