CHRIS COLEMAN has spent the last 48 hours weighing up whether to mix his tactical approach again when Sunderland head for the City Ground on Saturday – and the fitness of top scorer Lewis Grabban will be a determining factor.

The Black Cats head to Nottingham Forest on the back of two disappointing performances, leaving him as frustrated as he has since agreeing to take on the challenge seven matches ago.

Having been extremely encouraged by the displays at Wolves and against Fulham, when he played with three at the back, his players have failed to build on those due to below-par displays against bottom club Birmingham and then Sheffield United on Boxing Day.

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He stuck with the same defensive shape for both the festive fixtures but witnessed performances that concerned him, with the defending cheap and a lack of attacking purpose in the opposite direction.

Since leaving Bramall Lane on Boxing Day he has thought about ways to mix things up against Forest, and he will be working with his players again this morning at the Academy of Light to try to deliver a much improved display.

After a recovery day yesterday, the Sunderland players are off today and are back training on Friday before travelling to Nottingham. One of Coleman’s first jobs will be to learn whether Grabban is fit to figure on Saturday or against Barnsley on New Year's Day.

The 12-goal striker missed the trip to Bramall Lane with a calf problem picked up against Birmingham, and he remains a doubt. Aiden McGeady was unable to deliver in the supporting role behind James Vaughan on Boxing Day.

And what Coleman has to come up with is a way for his team to be more creative in the final third knowing that, for all the energy provided by Lynden Gooch and George Honeyman, there is still a lack of threat being posed to opposition defences.

Didier Ndong could be available again after an ankle niggle, but other than that Coleman has a shortage of options, with such an extensive injury list and a lack of numbers in midfield and defence.

Coleman said: “Lewis picked a calf injury up in the first half against Birmingham. He lasted quite well but it hasn't settled down so he's just not fit. Didier got a kick on his ankle.

“I'm not going to put Boxing Day’s performance down to having Lewis out. It's nothing to do with missing eight players either, it's about who is here and we came up short.

“I don't know if either will be back. Lewis played for probably an hour with it last Saturday, so it depends what damage was done and whether it settles down.”

The latest injuries are why he is considering ways of changing his team around, knowing he is not completely certain about the number of changes he can make when the January transfer window opens next month.

He will not be given any money to spend by owner Ellis Short. The best he can hope for in terms of spending money is if a player like Lamine Kone – who is interesting Everton – is sold and he receives a slice of any fee.

Coleman has already conceded there will be departures and Grabban could be one of those. Bournemouth are looking to sell him next month so are ready to cut short his season-long loan to offload him to either Aston Villa or Wolves.

That would leave Coleman shorter again. Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn is a player very much in his thinking. The teenager has hardly any first team experience, although the Sunderland manager does know him well from his time in charge of Wales.

Sunderland are looking at cheaper options in the transfer market. Rangers’ full-back James Tavernier, the former Newcastle youngster who is the brother of Middlesbrough winger Marcus, and Scunthorpe’s Hakeeb Adelakun are two others under consideration.