Advocaat believes that changing to a 4-3-3 system helped Sunderland in their draw with Stoke.
“Tactically-wise, we changed it because too many players had too much space for them,” the Dutch boss said. “We changed it to 4-3-3 and, from that moment on, it looked much better, because we started to play.”
Danny Graham came on at half-time for Will Buckley, and immediately moved into a forward position alongside Wickham and Jermain Defoe. It was a reversion to the 4-3-3 system that Advocaat had utilised in his early games in charge, and the success hints at a probable continuation with the system.
The benefit of the narrow 4-3-3 is the ability to control the midfield, whilst not sacrificing attacking efficiency in the final third. All three forwards are utilised as forwards, rather than wide-men, and this means the full-backs are under a lot of pressure to impress across the whole flank.
Advocaat has seen enough from Patrick van Aanholt and Billy Jones to suggest they are good enough for their high intensity roles, and it would be no surprise to see him stick with the narrow 4-3-3 for the rest of the season.
After the change, Jordi Gomez was also allowed to move infield to a more natural number 10 position, rather than being stuck out on the left on midfield where he offers little in the way of attacking or defensive work.
It is clear that the 4-3-3 is the best system for Advocaat’s players, and it is a system that the Dutch coach has favoured for much of his career. It was strange to see him revert to a 4-4-2 for the Stoke fixture, and the half-time switch should prove that Advocaat has found the tactical method to keep Sunderland in the Premier League.