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Better the players you know: Is Moyes lacking imagination and courage, or pursuing a smart recruitment strategy?

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With the arrivals of Bryan Oviedo and Darron Gibson, Sunderland’s dressing room is looking increasingly like Everton’s treatment room. So is tried and tested the way to go, or is Moyes playing it safe by harking back to halcyon days instead of casting his net far and wide to find a better balance between value for money and much needed quality?

Sunderland v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

Why take the risk of signing players you don’t know? You could end up with players with questionable attitudes if you were to be so bold. You could sign a player with talent, but no drive or determination to develop that talent, offering only brief glimpses of their ability. They might even duck out of challenges and refuse to give everything they have to the cause. I mean, if you signed someone without knowing their character first, you could be stuck with someone like Adnan Januzaj. And no one would want that.

Ok, that was a cheap shot.

But what we can learn from this example - and the multitude of reunions that David Moyes has overseen in his tenure thus far - is that past interaction with a player does not mean that Moyes has secret ways to keep injury prone players fit, nor is he necessarily able to help them deliver instant and consistent performances.

Our squad now contains Rodwell, Pienaar, Anichebe, Lescott, Gibson and Oviedo, all former Everton players. Add to this the presence of Donald Love, Paddy McNair and Adnan Januzaj from Moyes’ spell at Manchester United, and it’s beginning to feel like a depressingly shit Ocean’s Eleven reboot. Barring Anichebe, none of the five players above who signed in the summer have done much to impress me.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with signing players you trust. Most managers do it and it makes sense, as long as the players you are signing are going to contribute something more tangible than just being a good lad, as Moyes remarked about Oviedo, or Darron Gibson offering 'a bit of Britishness', whatever that means. It is not a revolutionary approach for a manager to bring in players he has previously worked with.

After all, Sam Allardyce has just swooped for Patrick Van Aanholt - who one would have thought was unmanageable given some of the rhetoric these last few days - because he has first hand experience of his qualities. I do not think Allardyce is signing Van Aanholt for his charming personality or squeaky clean character.

However, I get the impression from Moyes that he is keen to work with players he primarily knows won’t cause him trouble. Speaking of the two signings, Moyes remarked: “I know what I’m getting. I know what they’ll do and their characters more than anything”.

In a separate interview, Moyes then stated that Oviedo was, “... a really good character – a good boy – and I’m hoping he’s someone who will help us over the years."

It has been clear in the first half of this season that most of our current squad, so full of passion and energy in the closing weeks of last season, have failed to adapt to the Moyes style. We can speculate as to exactly what has caused that and whether it is the manager or the players at fault, but the problem has been endemic within the squad and we must at least consider the possibility that it is the managers approach which has failed to resonate with many of the players.

It is ultimately the managers job to prepare the players for a game and find a way to produce performances from those available. He has proven to be incapable of doing so with Patrick Van Aanholt, who we know is capable of decent performances when given the right coaching environment. Moyes acknowledged that Van Aanholt’s sale had been his decision and had not ultimately strengthened his hand in the transfer market, so it is clear that Van Aanholt, along with several others such as Khazri, are not characters he wishes to have around the squad or spend much of is time on.

From what I’ve seen, inspiration and motivation are hardly David Moyes’ strongest assets and his comments regarding transfers have been no less depressing than his general demeanour when on match day duties. Despite claiming that January signings will not make a difference and stating in the summer that prospective signings were not anywhere near the quality that he has been used to signing during his entire time in the Premier League, many fans defend his comments as much needed home truths. However, I greet the signings with similar levels of dissatisfaction, the same fans label me negative and guilty of pushing an agenda against David Moyes.

It has seemingly become the fans job to generate positivity surrounding potential incomings, while the manager spouts negative comments at every opportunity to manage expectations and tell home truths. Why on earth I should be compelled to feel positive and boost the players confidence, when the manager seems hell bent on wallowing in self pity and bringing players down, is completely lost on me.

I have already seen pre-emptive excuses for Moyes should these new additions continue to pick up injuries and fail to hit any consistent run of form. Though the bank balance is low and the squad is stretched thin, I find it astonishing that we are expected to believe that our only options just so happen to be players Moyes has already worked with.

Addressing the issues of signing so many former players, Moyes stated:

I’ve tried for one or two others, so to say I’m only going for players I know is not true It’s actually the players who have been available and have said, ‘Yeah, I’ll have a go at that'.

We tried for the boy at Norwich (Robbie Brady) and he said ‘no’. There were others as well, but people have said ‘no’.

They trust me and they know the way I manage and the way I work. They will know what to expect. Sometimes for them, that makes the move easier. I hope it shows.

While Moyes may claim that it is his presence that has convinced certain players to join Sunderland, it is clear that the appeal works both ways. Moyes will jump at the chance to bring in players he knows, as much as players may be convinced by the Sunderland project by the prospect of working with him again.

There is a fine line between wanting tried and tested, and lacking ingenuity and courage. Although Moyes has stated that we have been rejected by players who he has not previously managed and players from his past have therefore been forced upon him, Moyes has made no secret of the fact that he wishes to pursue preferably British players with Premier League experience. This is a self imposed limitation that will not produce the maximum return for the money we have available.

Moyes net is not cast far and wide and with the premium that is placed on recruiting from within the domestic leagues for Premier League experience, it is hardly a surprise that we have been reduced to signing players who are rejects from Premier League, Championship and Greek clubs, simply because the manager knows them. Having signed Lamine Kone last season for £5m, we know that better value is out there if we have someone who is capable and willing to look for it. In addition, having paid £5m for Danny Graham in January 2012, we also know that Premier League experience or ‘Britishness’, does not guarantee an immediate impact.

I will obviously reserve judgment on these players until I have seen them play a number of times, but we can of course cast a concerned glance at their respective injury records, performances and limited number of appearances in the last few seasons.

What we can say for certain is that this team has been extensively changed to Moyes specifications, with Van Aanholt willingly sold and several more players familiar with Moyes brought in to better implement his methods. Whatever limitations he has worked within, they are ultimately limitations he has consented to, while he has also further limited himself by going for players who have experience of the Premier League. We can and should, therefore, be viewing the performances of this squad and these players as a reflection on David Moyes.

To do anything else is to entirely insulate the manager from criticism and hold him to no standard at all.