Another game, another pitiful display; there’s so much going wrong with the club at the moment that it’s really hard to focus on what needs to be corrected first. Lack of passion, lack of identity, lack of quality players, lack of fit players, lack of ability to acquire new players, lack of trust in youth players and a general lack of money has left us in this quagmire that is hauntingly similar to 2003 and the fire sale that followed relegation.
Add to that aforementioned list the midweek FA Cup replay away to Burnley, and there’s another hindrance that we could do without. The current situation is bordering on desperate, and something needs to change.
Ahead of the initial cup tie at the Stadium of Light we noted that the game could have been a great opportunity to offer some our our younger players a chance to prove their worth. Ultimately, however, Moyes had other ideas and decided to use none of the youngsters whatsoever - a theme that has continued in every game they’ve made the bench.
With a difficult run of games following the FA Cup replay and continuing on into February one would think that this must be the game in which Moyes experiments with his starting line-up in order to better understand the ability, or indeed lack thereof, possessed by his youngsters.
However, don’t be surprised if Moyes carries on with his stubborn approach to fielding the same under-performing set of players that have done so little to inspire confidence in recent weeks.
Just why Moyes is so reluctant to give his younger players a chance is a topic that is up for much debate. Some argue that Moyes doesn’t rate them in any way, shape or form and doesn’t see the point in throwing them into a perilous battle against relegation. Yet, how can Moyes judge without giving them an opportunity to prove their worth?
Others argue that Moyes is making a statement to Ellis Short and the board with his reluctance to give any game time to the youngsters consigned to warming the bench. The argument runs on the basis that highlighting a lack of depth might somehow encourage Short and co. to give Moyes funds required to bring in reinforcements.
Why we’ve had to potentially resort to conniving politics within the club is something we could analyze in great detail, but if this is indeed part of the reason Moyes refuses to give the likes of Asoro, Embleton and Robson a chance then he could well be harming his chances of a positive outcome.
Would Short and co. sanction deals (if they financially are able to) for a manager who has stubbornly refused to alter his tactical approach? Would they feel comfortable in giving him finances for a short-term fix when players look devoid of enthusiasm and belief? The whole gamble being made in the name of political leverage is detrimental to the team, the younger players and the club in general. It’s time Moyes puts his toys back in the pram and tries something new; we understand there’s an injury crisis, and we understand that it’s a gamble risking younger players, but surely it’s a better option that allowing Borini, Januzaj and co. to petulantly mope around the pitch?
Burnley will be in good spirits coming into the game - a win at home to Southampton this weekend moved them 10 points clear of relegation and Sean Dyche will be relishing the opportunity to give a few squad players some game time at Turf Moor. That’s not to say Dyche will be taking the game lightly, though, because I’m certain he will be happy with the idea of a cup run to further bolster his team’s impressive showing in the league.
Despite Patrick Bamford being recalled, and Lukas Jutkiewicz being sold to Birmingham - Sean Dyche still has a number of attacking options to chose from. Barnes, Boyd Defour, Gray, Hendrick and Vokes are all players who will be vying to face Sunderland’s suspect defence. Moyes must get his men motivated for what will be a testing replay in Lancashire.
Furthermore, Moyes and his staff must swiftly eradicate the petulant, surly manner in which several star players conducted themselves in the humbling defeat at home to Stoke. The dejection was crippling and will continue to hurt us should the coaching staff fail to address this concern.
There’s not much change in all honesty, with little info coming from the club regarding potential returns.
Billy Jones could make his full return to the starting line-up while the AFCON will continue to hinder our ability to field a full-strength squad.
Predicted XI: Mannone, PVA, Djilobodji, O’Shea, Love, Larsson, Denayer, Rodwell, Borini, Defoe, Januzaj.
He’s not going to change anything is he?
Score Prediction: Who knows? Though a win would be crucial in allowing the players to rediscover the confidence that is so clearly lacking. That being said, I fancy Sean Dyche’s men to come out all guns blazing in order to further consolidate what has already been an impressive first-half of their campaign. I’m not confident at all, so I’m going for a 2-0 win for Burnley.