3-4-3 gives Lions reason for hope
New system could revive Singapore's Asian Cup qualifying campaign
Can a tweak in formation and a change in approach turn the Lions' fortunes around?
That question cropped up in the minds of some supporters after Singapore drew 1-1 with Hong Kong in a friendly at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday night.
It is a good result against a side ranked 25 places higher in the Fifa world order, but those numbers do not go far enough in capturing what those 90 minutes have done for V Sundramoorthy's men.
Pigeon-holed as a defensive tactician, Sundram's charges lined up in an attack-minded 3-4-3 at the start of a game that saw - as the football fraternity expects of a typical Sundram side - steady feet in defence and bite in the engine room.
For patches in the first half and in the second 45 minutes, there was effective use of possession in the build-up - and fangs bared in the attacking third.
It may not be the metamorphosis that some fans have been hoping for, but the Lions have shown that they can keep possession and pressure the opposition.
And it has already given confidence to a team needing results to keep their Asian Cup qualifying campaign alive.
"In this formation, we always have a secure defence, but at the same time, we're not lightweight in attack," said Sundram as he plots his game plan for the visit of Turkmenistan in Tuesday's qualifier at the same venue.
Singapore have just one point after two rounds, and are bottom of Group E, behind Taiwan and Turkmenistan, both on three points.
Bahrain lead the group with four points.
Sundram added: "I feel that moving forward we should keep the ball better. The aim is to stop pumping the ball long after two or three passes and then lose possession."
The 51-year-old tactician also believes that the Hong Kong performance has already shown that his charges can adapt.
"The players need to believe that they can hold the ball and play, and I think they've shown in the Hong Kong game that they can play the ball out of defence," said Sundram, of the three-man backline of Daniel Bennett, Irfan Fandi and Zulfahmi Arifin.
"We must continue to believe," he added, drawing confidence from the fact that this performance came against a Hong Kong team that have recently registered good results against higher-ranked sides like North Korea and Jordan.
But he is aware that the 3-4-3 formation is no standard template that he can apply blindly against Turkmenistan.
Indeed, even against Hong Kong, tactical changes were needed at half-time to make the Lions more effective.
Instead of two wide players and a central attacker in Khairul Amri, Sundram threw on Safuwan Baharudin to partner the Tampines Rovers man, with Faris Ramli slotting in behind the duo.
"We can't say that just because we're playing at home, we will completely open up and just attack Turkmenistan.
"We need to go out there and get points, but we must be clever, we need to adjust according to the way they play," said the former Singapore international, who highlighted the Central Asian side's physicality and speed as their main threats.
But he has seen enough in his charges to know that they can deliver - with gumption - what he asks of them.
Said Sundram: "Results are one thing but, for me, the performance was key, and even if we didn't find the winner against Hong Kong, there will still be good vibes about the football that we can play.
"We can give a good performance, and good performances will win us games."