The opening five games have been really frustrating. We lost to Man City in the dying minutes. We were forced into playing what was effectively a reserve side against Boro and still should have got a result. We let a win slip through our fingers in the last seven minutes against Southampton due to an out-of-character mistake by the otherwise excellent Jordan Pickford. We put in a shocking second-half display to ruin all the hard-work in the first-half against Everton. And finally, we clearly set up to get a point away at Spurs on Sunday and only failed to do so due to Papy Djilibodji’s inexplicable air-shot. The fact we had no "Plan B" after Spurs took the lead was by far the most disappointing thing about the match.
On their own, none of the above scenarios are that painful. After all, we’ve seen much worse at times in the past ten years. Remember Norwich at home last season?! However, viewed collectively, I can understand why fans are starting to lose patience with David Moyes.
We always seem to find ourselves in the same position at the end of September: at the foot of the table, without a win in our opening games, and without any hope. We have done the same thing every single year for the past five seasons.
This is, perversely, one of the things that gives me the most hope. However bad it gets, we will have historically been in a worse position and got out of it. Granted, that’s not ideal. But we’ve always managed to get it right by May.
Our next two league games offer the chance for Moyes to put it right quicker than most. We play Crystal Palace at home this weekend and West Brom at home the following weekend. Both teams scored four times last weekend and got crucial wins but that shouldn’t disguise the fact that both of these are very winnable games.
This is why I think we should call off the lynch mob until after those two games are played. I saw lots of people pining for Big Sam after the game on Sunday. And don’t get me wrong, I loved Big Sam. But let’s not forget that when we played Spurs away last season, it was his tactical tinkering that led to our 4-1 hammering. And let’s also not forget that we only won twice from nine games from November to December. Allardyce was great, but it took time for his system to work for us. It wasn’t the quick fix that some fans are remembering through rose-tinted glasses.
David Moyes needs time to prove himself. Given the fans’ frustrations about the abysmal transfer window, the dropped points versus Boro and Southampton, and the poor performances against Spurs and Everton, he may only have two weeks to win the fans round. Which isn’t a fair amount of time, but it will be all he gets in the eyes of some. It’s funny really: football fans scream for loyalty from players but don’t afford that same loyalty to their manager when times are hard. It was not Moyes to blame for Pickford’s error against Southampton or Djilibodji’s brain-fart against Spurs. But he makes an easy scapegoat.
Although he is not renowned for coaching attacking sides, Moyes will have to throw off the shackles against Palace and West Brom. He must adopt a much more positive approach than we saw against Spurs, as these next two league games could well decide his fate as Sunderland manager.
But, surely he will do? If we lose to both Palace and West Brom, many will feel that we will end up relegated. We cannot afford to give potential relegation rivals a six point head-start when we’ve already joined the race far too late. Four points from those two games are the least we should demand.
But on the other hand, if we can get four or six points from those two games, it will give us a platform to build on. This would be crucial and it is something that has been lacking in the opening five games. If we do manage to beat Palace and West Brom, all the negativity will wash away and our perspective will change. Such is the life of a Sunderland fan.
With that in mind, let’s get behind the Lads on Saturday and keep the faith… for two more weeks at the very least!