Gustavo Poyet would “love” to see strikers Steven Fletcher and Jozy Altidore in tandem – but hinted this afternoon’s Premier League game at Stoke may come too soon for that.
The pair have started twice together under Poyet, against Newcastle United and Hull City, but since Altidore was substituted at half-time at the KC Stadium, that has been abandoned.
The Black Cats enjoyed success playing a 4-1-4-1 formation in their last two games, both at the Stadium of Light.
During the international break Poyet was at Hampden Park to watch Fletcher and Altidore play on opposite sides as lone strikers, and he would like to see more of them together.
“Friendlies are sometimes difficult to analyse but it was a unique opportunity to see two main strikers playing in the same game in different styles and unfortunately it was 0-0,” Poyet said of the Scotland v USA friendly. “I was looking for a 3-3 with three from Fletcher and three from Jozy Altidore.
“But it was completely opposite, Fletch had a very good first half and Jozy practically didn’t get involved too much, then he was more involved second half and had a couple of chances. It was nice to see them in that position alone but in the national team in a different kind of style.
“I would love to see them play together but we need to train a few things and play with them both and we need a few days. But we haven’t had (that) the last few weeks because they were not here and the rest of the squad.
“My aim if it is possible is to play with two strikers. How we can manage to do it and which players we need is the part we need to work on. We will see. I think it is possible.
“Sometimes it does matter what the manager thinks but it is up to the players to show when you try it that it works.
“If you play it and you don’t win games and it doesn’t work with the two of them you have no choice but to play with one.
“They need to learn, play together in training, practice, understand the movement of each other but it is not that easy. I don’t want them to be friends. I look back at Manchester United, Teddy (Sheringham) and Andy (Cole) didn’t talk a lot but when they played together, oh my God.
“So I want them to understand each other on the pitch and then we will see. The final decision is mine.
“They have only had a couple of weeks on the training ground together since I have been here. There has been the midweek games and international breaks so it has been strange because there is plenty we want to see but we have not been able to do it yet so we have had to keep it simple.
“The ones who complicate the game are the managers, we complicate things too much sometimes, we think too much and try to do too many things. Simple.
“At the moment we are working on basics. Now we have three months of working with the whole squad and it will be easier because we can work on things, especially when it is a full week.”
Sunderland have had ten players – Fletcher, Altidore, Emanuele Giaccherini, Ondrej Celustka, Ji Dong-won, Ki Sung-Yueng, Sebastian Larsson, Charalampos Mavrias, John O’Shea and Keiren Westwood – on international duty, and Poyet is wary of how that affected them last time.
“After the last international week it was my first game and we got destroyed by Swansea (losing 4-0 in South Wales),” he recalled. “If we didn’t learn from that and don’t go with a different approach for this game, it’s going to be very difficult to get out of the relegation zone. We need to make sure we go with more confidence, show how we want to play, be more competitive and make sure we get the result.
“Sometimes thing happen for a reason and let’s hope that one was a good wake-up call for today.
“We had two days, no more, to make sure.”
Although three wins in four games have put a completely different complexion on Sunderland’s season they are still to record a first away win this season.
Carlos Cuellar is missing through injury, and Lee Cattermole and Andrea Dossena serve the final game of three-match suspensions.