Team Selection: Spot On!
December has not been kind to David Moyes in relation to injuries to his first-team players, so it has become crucially vital that we find a way of playing that masks our lack of options in certain positions, and allows us to get some of our more attacking players on the pitch from the start in games that we stand a chance of winning.
So, David Moyes made the bold choice to select eleven men that he felt would score goals against an inconsistent Watford side - particularly interesting when you consider that the away team elected to go with their preferred three-man back line.
Moyes opted to start the game with FOUR forwards on the pitch - more than he has started with in any other fixture this season.
He also made the decision to give Donald Love a chance at right back after his fairly impressive cameo midweek against Chelsea and I was over the moon that the youngster gave a good account of himself. I've had Love unfairly written off at times this season but it's important that we all remember that he's a young player trying to find his feet and coming into a team that is struggling isn't easy, so it was crucial that he was able to impress and get almost a full ninety minutes under his belt.
Moyes also stuck by Adnan Januzaj, keeping Wahbi Khazri on the bench, and in fairness it proved to be a good decision. Januzaj had a very poor opening forty-five minutes but his performance in the second half turned out to be the difference between us opening up Watford and being happy with a 0-0 draw.
Victor Anichebe was given a recall having missed the Chelsea game, and boy did we miss him. His sheer presence on the pitch seems to distract the opposition defenders to the point where they are foolish enough to allow our other players to move into pockets of space where they can be devastating - we'll talk more about that in the next section, though.
All in all, Moyes got it bang on. We were far too open in the first half but I don't think that can be attributed too much to the team selection. He was criticised midweek for being too negative against Chelsea with the side that he picked but, against Watford, the same thing simply cannot be levelled at the Sunderland manager.
Gav's rating: 10/10 - We picked an attacking side and won - no complaints here.
Tactics: Back To Basics
Having tried a 4-4-2 at Swansea and then a 3-4-3/5-4-1 against Chelsea, David Moyes opted to pick a more basic side that had his players slotting into roles that ultimately suit their best characteristics.
Victor Anichebe returned to the left hand side of the pitch and we saw just what was missing from not having him there against Swansea and Chelsea as he continued to bring the best out of goalscorer Patrick Van Aanholt, who had the freedom to roam down the Watford right hand side all afternoon.
Picking four forwards when you have an infamously weak defence is an incredible risk but it paid off, even if we rode our luck in the first half. Nobody watching the game can deny that the away side deserved to score in the first half and as they spurned chance after chance, you couldn't help but feel that some of the luck was about to go our way on Saturday afternoon - and it did.
But still, we had to remain resolute. Didier Ndong and Jason Denayer are at their best when protecting the back four and winning back the ball, and both men were fantastic in doing so. Papy Djilobodji had his best game yet and has become somewhat of a beacon for the Sunderland defence, whilst playing Fabio Borini in front of Donald Love made perfect sense and gave us the cover that we required down that side whenever Nordin Amrabat got on the ball.
Gav's rating: 9/10 - We should have been battered in the first half - but, we stayed strong.
Substitutions: One Head Scratcher - But It Worked
I have to admit that when I saw John O'Shea lined up to replace Adnan Januzaj in the 80th minute I was slightly worried about the thinking behind it - at the time we were well on top of Watford and it felt as though we were going to score again, so taking off the man who had been our best attacker in the second half for another defender seemed slightly odd.
If we had conceded late in the game then I might have flooded this section with vitriol and anger but the fact of the matter is that we didn't and we finished the game as winners, with a clean sheet to boot.
Sebastian Larsson's introduction came due to Donald Love suffering from cramp, whilst Wahbi Khazri's late appearance was merely done in a bid to run the clock down further and waste time as Watford searched for a late equaliser.
Gav's rating: 10/10 - O'Shea kept us organised.
Post-Match Comments: Love For Love
After the victory David Moyes was keen to give credit to Donald Love, a player who has come in for his fair share of criticism since joining Sunderland in the summer from Manchester United.
Thankfully we’re back to winning ways with a massive victory, which we needed to get ourselves in a stronger position. It was one of those games you look at and say you need to try to win it.
Today was always going to be tough because of the opposition. They’re strong, powerful and have some really good players in the team. It wasn’t pretty, I would say that.
Donald [Love] was arguably our man of the match. I thought he and Victor [Anichebe] were excellent. After coming into the team having been out, Donald played really well today, and good on the boy. He’s been out for a while and stuck with his training. Hopefully he will continue to improve and we’ll have a player on our hands.
I don’t think we got up to speed in the first half, but in the second we looked more like it. Watford faded a little bit and we were able to capitalise on it.
Does this mean we're going to see alot more of Donald Love over the coming months? I think you can bet on it, and it might not even be at right back - the youngster has been playing in the centre of midfield for the U23s and has even made a cameo or two from the bench for the first team in that role over the last month. With so many first team midfielders missing in January, it might be something that the manager opts to explore.
Moyes called it well - it wasn't pretty, but getting the three points could be absolutely massive, especially considering the task at hand in our next three games.
Gav's Rating: 10/10 - It was a good day at the office for Dave!