Sunderland legend Gary Bennett has given an impassioned interview to the Sunderland Echo in which he stressed that players, not formations, are what will win games as the Black Cats prepare for another season in League One.
The Black Cats icon, who played for the Wearside club between 1984 and 1995, then proceeded to give several examples of tactical tweaks made by Jack Ross and his coaches over the course of the 2018-19 season which did "not really" work on the pitch.
Sunderland stuttered to a fifth-placed finish in the third tier and although they were able to overcome Portsmouth in the playoff semi-finals, they just fell short as Charlton Athletic triumphed at Wembley to climb up into the Championship at the expense of the Black Cats.
Reflecting on that defeat, Bennett insisted that the players had to move on quickly, the board needs to put the wheels in motion regarding recruitment, and the team needs to improve both at the back, up front, and be more imposing in games.
He added: "We talk about formations but formations do not win games. Players do. The amount of times we have played 4-4-2, two strikers up front, did it work? Not really. One striker up front, did it work? Not really. Three centre-backs, did it work? Not really.
"We have tried and tested a lot of different formations but at the end of the day it is the players that make the formations work. You hope whoever comes in or the way we set up, we have to go and stamp our authority on games and this division."
Sunderland's full fixture list will be released on Thursday 20 June at 9am but Chronicle Live has reported that, given Newcastle United begin their campaign at home on 11 August and traditionally neither side plays at home on the same weekend, it is expected that their first fixture, on the weekend of 3 August, will be at the Stadium of Light.
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