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Sunderland v Aston Villa: Preview

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22 Oct 2010 19:39:56

Sunderland v Aston Villa: Preview

Sunderland boss Steve Bruce will resist the temptation to pitch his #23million strike-force into Barclays Premier League battle - for now.

The Black Cats invested in excess of £13million during the summer to add the firepower provided by Ghana international Asamoah Gyan to the proven class of Darren Bent, who scored 25 goals last season.

Bent and Gyan are yet to start a league game in harness and with the pair having contributed nine of the club's 10 goals to date this season - the other was a Stephen Carr own goal - there is a growing clamour for Bruce to unleash the full power of his armoury.

However, the manager is happy with the way his side has been playing in recent weeks with the England international at the pinnacle of a 4-5-1 formation, and is unlikely to tinker with that as he heads into the home clash with Aston Villa.

Asked if he is tempted to change system and play both men from the start, he said: "There will be a time when we do it, of course. But the team is playing very, very well and the team comes above anything.

"It is quite rare now in the Premier League, for instance, to see any team playing with two.

"We are playing with two out-and-out strikers because Danny Welbeck is a striker, but he is playing towards the left.

"It is very difficult. I have always played 4-4-2, I have always been one who has enjoyed playing 4-4-2.

"But I do believe that you do need decent possession of the ball in the big games now and who of the big teams does that anymore?

"Even Manchester United, when they play the big games, play 4-3-3 or 4-5-1, if you like; Chelsea do; Tottenham did on Wednesday night until they had somebody sent off. It's becoming a trait, isn't it?"

Gyan has started just one game for the club - the 2-1 Carling Cup third-round defeat by West Ham - but has two goals to his name and Bruce is making no apologies for easing his big-money signing into the English game.

He said: "I had no hesitation in paying the money for him. What it has enabled me to do, though, is let him have a little insight into England.

"To be fair, his first game, he thought, 'Dear, oh dear'. It's the intensity - for instance, at Blackburn the other night. It's the intensity and the way teams play. Nobody plays like that in France.

"He hasn't seen it before. He has probably seen it on TV, but when you are up there and see it... It has enabled me to let him come to the club and quietly let him settle in. Believe me, he will have a big impact when we unleash him."

Villa manager Gerard Houllier is "quite happy" for winger Ashley Young to delay talks over a new contract until next summer.

The Frenchman is conscious of Young "needing to know about the ambition of the club" before deciding on his future.

Young had intimated earlier this month that he was ready to commit his future to Villa, while Houllier was confident a contract would be signed "sooner rather than later".

But the player announced he wanted to concentrate on his football and any talks over a potential new deal would not happen until the end of the campaign.

The England international will then have only 12 months remaining of the four-year deal he signed in 2008.

Houllier, whose side visit Sunderland on Saturday, said: "I am quite happy with what Ashley has said. He loves the fans here, he enjoys his football and, since I've come here, he very much enjoys the way he is progressing.

"I am quite happy with what he has said, that he wants to concentrate on his football and talk about it (his contract) at the end of the season.

"At the end of the day he is not in the same situation as Wayne Rooney was because he re-signed a contract two years ago so it is a bit different.

"I am happy. He looks happy. He is fine. He enjoys his football and you know when you are not happy, you don't improve.

"All I can see is he is a major part of our team but also a major part of our atmosphere and is lively and jovial. We like that, the way he behaves."

Villa will be boosted by the return of striker Emile Heskey and winger Marc Albrighton after a back injury and illness ruled them out of last weekend's goalless draw with Chelsea.

Defender Richard Dunne has recovered from the ankle injury suffered early in the game against the Blues.


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