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Moyes Deserves Credit For Sunderland’s Upturn In Fortunes

Sunderland’s 4-1 defeat to Arsenal may have been just over three weeks ago, but it feels like a lifetime since our second half capitulation at the Stadium of Light. 

Manchester City v Sunderland - Premier League Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

In the aftermath of that defeat we were rooted to the bottom of the league without a win and Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher suggested that Moyes’ men could be the worst Premier League team of all time. At the time I wrote an article bemoaning the Scotsman’s demeanour, his transfer activity and the media narrative that was absolving him of any blame for our predicament.

Three weeks and back to back wins later, Sunderland suddenly find themselves off the bottom of the league and just three points off getting out of the relegation zone. Supporters have gone from total despondency to starting to believe that the lads are capable of pulling off their annual escape act. Even Carragher praised our recent results and hinted that Defoe and Anichebe could help keep us in the top flight.

Of course, I am not suggesting that we hold an open top bus parade after wins over Bournemouth and Hull but there has been a general improvement in recent weeks and it would be unfair to not credit Moyes for his role in this.

Recently he has been vocal about the club’s off field improvements - he was highly complimentary of the players trip to Nissan in the run up to the Bournemouth game, and he also paid tribute to Charlie Hurley after our player of the century was paraded on the pitch before our 3-0 win over Hull. Although these are small steps, it's positive that David Moyes and Martin Bain are making a conscious effort to recognise the supporters and engage with the community.

More importantly, Moyes' tactical decisions have improved in recent weeks - some people have described our set up as 4-4-2, but it hasn’t been quite that simple.

We started that way at Dean Court, with Paddy McNair wide left and Anichebe operating through the middle, but after going a goal down Moyes immediately switched Bic Vic to a wide left position and the rest, as they, is history.

At Bournemouth Anichebe was a man mountain, scoring a goal, winning a penalty and playing a pivotal role in our first win of the season.

He made a similar impact during the Hull game and was unplayable for much of the afternoon. Some may argue that Moyes had little choice but to play Anichebe, given our issues with injuries to other players, but the way that the manager has utilised him has certainly got the best out of the Nigerian in recent weeks.

Moyes' decision to stick with Billy Jones has been a brave one, given the fact that Javier Manquillo was likely brought to the club to be first choice. Another overtly obvious yet correct decision has been to persevere with Jordan Pickford - although he has been impressive all season, some managers may have preferred to immediately revert back to Vito Mannone once he was back from his injury. His faith in the young Washington-born stopper has paid off.

Things are far from perfect but we now look harder to beat and there seems to be a great deal more togetherness on and off the pitch - the manager must take a slice of the credit for this, and rightly so.