Midfielder Wahbi Khazri has been reflecting on his time at on Sunderland, contrasting the various styles of manager he played under at the Stadium of Light, and says he expects to return to Wearside next summer.
In an interview with French newspaper Sud Ouest, the Tunisian playmaker says he remains proud of his initial spell on Wearside in which the Black Cats escaped relegation under Sam Allardyce, reflects on being left out of the side under David Moyes and has criticised Sunderland’s style of play under Simon Grayson.
In the wake of Grayson’s sacking on Tuesday night, Khazri suggests the recently departed Sunderland manager employed too many long-balls and only picked those players he favoured.
Khazri joined Stade Rennais on loan at the end of the transfer window after impressing for Sunderland in pre-season then barely featured under Grayson as the Black Cats began their Championship campaign. Without an automatic option to make the move a permanent one, the 26-year-old will be duty bound to return to the Stadium of Light next summer.
Sam Allardyce signed Khazri for a fee thought to have been worth around £8m in January 2016 and the player proved to be an instant hit on Wearside, scoring some crucial goals to help keep the Black Cats in the Premier League.
Khazri’s current side, Stade Rennais, endured a poor start to their Ligue One campaign after splashing the cash in the summer but have posted victories in their last two games in the absence of the Sunderland-owned man who missed out through suspension.
The Brittany-based outfit host Khazri’s former club Bordeaux tomorrow night, with the Tunisian suggesting rumours that coach Christian Gourcuff was about to be axed have galvanised the squad.
Here’s what he said...
On his first spell under Sam Allardyce & staying up...
Initially, it was going well. I really enjoyed myself. Many people were pessimistic about surviving. But I had the confidence of Sam Allardyce. He made me play. The team had great matches. We managed to maintain ourselves and I am proud to have contributed to that.
On being left out of the side by Moyes...
Allardyce gave way to David Moyes. The latter left me aside, he felt that I did not have the qualities to play in his team ... And we were relegated.
On this season & the plight of Sunderland in the Championship...
And this season, it was hardly better with Simon Grayson. He advocated the typical game of the Second Division, with long balls. He played the players he knew.
[Sunderland are] 22nd out of 24, it's complicated for them ... It does not matter, I will play in League One! For now, I do not think, because I have enough trouble here with Rennes. I have to be efficient. I am Sunderland because I belong to this club. I hope they will get out of this situation. But my concern today is Rennes, because I need to be good for the club I wear.
On the future...
I did not play much for Sunderland, I needed to find play time. I'm only on loan, I'll go back there next season.
And finally, on which was his most important, the goal v Chelsea or Manchester United...
The one against Chelsea, without hesitation. It was the match where we were behind 2-1 at the break. We scored twice in a row in the second period, to win 3-2 in front of 40,000 people. On that match, there was a lot of pressure because of the threat of relegation. It was quite extraordinary at this level.
We had to dig back through the Twitter archives to find those goals, but here they are.
8: Wahibi Khazri VS Chelsea— ㅤO.K / (@ffshibs) August 29, 2016
Stunning volley, unfortunately against my team, Even better on the replay pic.twitter.com/haGU8y9pyx
Wahbi Khazri opens the scoring for Sunderland vs Manchester united. Final score SAFC 2 - Man UTD 1 pic.twitter.com/FWSOXYCtRm— Soccer State (@soccerstate) February 13, 2016