Didier Ndong - 'broken' at CAN2017 exit, but even bigger challenge awaits
Didier Ndong has described himself and his Gabon teammates as "broken" at their African Cup of Nations exit. The host nation left a wake of disappointment in what was supposed to be their own triumphant festival of football.
The troubled Central African country must now watch on as others march to glory on their soil, as Gabon only managed three draws in their trio of group games.
The Sunderland midfielder told ESPN:
We are absolutely disappointed, really broken, but sometimes in football, as hard as you try, things just don't run for you.
Ndong also hinted at his country's poor preparation for the tournament which included a last minute change of coach and even an incident which had him packed back to Sunderland in disgrace after a 'misunderstanding' meant he missed a training session for a World Cup qualifier in November; the 22-year-old said:
It wasn't easy. The change of staff before a competition like this mean when we arrived there was a new coach who didn't know the group and therefore began his preparations a lot later than other teams.
Conditions were not ideal, but despite that, the players gave everything they could, every player gave everything he could and that is a positive we can take out of it.
Sunderland's record signing rated as a bit hit-and-miss in that trio of matches, as he has been this season for the club he joined in the summer, but he saved his best performance till last with an energetic showing on Sunday night.
Demain c'est le combat Final ⚽⚽⚽ #gabon#AFCON2017 #CAN2017 #TeamNdong #GABCAM pic.twitter.com/D3GRgob6lO— Ibrahim Didier Ndong (@Ibrahim_Ndong) January 21, 2017
Ndong was good in his final pre-tournament appearance for Sunderland too - putting in a heck of a shift the last time David Moyes' side bothered to show up for a match - in the New Year bank holiday fixture against Liverpool at the Stadium of Light.
Since then Moyes has seen his side continue to be wrecked by injuries but also regress in terms of effort and will-to-win. Problems also continue in the central midfield berths with the Sunderland boss unable to settle on a consistently effective arrangement in the middle.
Jason Denayer has struggled each time he has played in a holding midfield role without Ndong alongside him and Jack Rodwell put in one decent performance before remembering he isn't expected to bother himself.
Sebastian Larsson hasn't fared much better in the middle of the park either; and the Swede took a hammering off Soccer Saturday's Phil Thompson during Sky's coverage of the defeat to West Brom on Saturday. The former Liverpool defender, and long-time pundit, slated Larsson's dead ball deliveries - which frankly were borderline laughable.
The midfielder who turns 32 in the summer, and has been at Sunderland for more than five years, has struggled in games since his return from injury. Though he has never looked quite as bad as players of Dream League Soccer probably believe him to be.
#dreamleaguesoccer でたった今Sebastian Larssonを購入しました！ pic.twitter.com/9EhSEqXHfE— ご〜ま (*˙︶˙*)☆*° (@G0820) January 23, 2017
Jagielka Doesn't Much Fancy a Reunion With Moyes
According to the Telegraph, Everton's Phil Jagielka is not interested in a reunion with David Moyes and the prospect of switching Goodison Park for the Stadium of Light.
The 34-year-old has been linked with Sunderland and West Ham since Everton boss, Ronald Koeman, suggested he was free to leave. Jagielka has found his first team opportunities limited as his Merseyside decade-spanning career limps to an end.
Khazri Impresses - Again
Wahbi Khazri continues to be one of the outstanding players at the African Cup of Nations. The Sunderland midfielder was in action again last night as his Tunisian side beat Zimbabwe 4-2.
Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia) penalty goal against Zimbabwe (1-4) via /r/soccer https://t.co/s4NKDFokAW #Soccardo pic.twitter.com/50Jg7LKjza— Soccardo (@SoccardoGame) January 23, 2017
With the north African country leading their southern opponents by a two-goal lead, Khazri was withdrawn just after the hour mark having scored a penalty, had a goal ruled out for offside and impressing again with his set-pieces.
Lescott Will Stay
According to the Mirror, Joleon Lescott has been offered a short-term deal at Sunderland after spending the last few days training with the side currently bottom of the Premier League.
A sign of desperation according to some, the 34-year-old can't offer anything worse than what we've seen at the back in recent weeks.
That state of disarray culminated in Papy Djilobodji now facing a four match ban for appearing to raise his hands into the face of West Brom midfielder Darren Fletcher at the Hawthorns on Saturday. Djilobodji has until 6pm tonight to respond to a charge of violent conduct.