Team Selection: The Return of Kone and Ndong Could be Vital
Most fans would have taken a 0-0 draw at the beginning of the game. Tottenham are undefeated in 11 games, and have soared up to third in the table, last night’s game was never going to be easy. After recent weeks, however, many could be forgiven for thinking that we would take a pasting from Pochettino’s men; thankfully, we were made of sterner stuff.
The return of Lamine Kone and Dider Ndong was the most remarkable aspect of last night’s game. Kone looked like his old domineering self, whilst Ndong provided the energy and drive that has been lacking in the middle of the park. You can tell these lads bring a level of discipline and authority to the field when they play, and that has been sorely missed during their absence.
The only slight negative for me would be the inclusion of Fabio Borini. Yes we didn’t sign a striker during the window, and yes there are few replacements for the sulky Italian, but to be rather blunt: he just doesn’t look interested. It was rather harsh to leave out George Honeyman, who has in all honesty been impressive in recent weeks. Perhaps Moyes will look to the Beekeeper to bring a buzz back to Sunderland’s rather blunt attack (awful pun intended).
Tom’s Rating: 7/10 - It was great to see some drive and fight on the field in the form of Kone and Ndong, but Borini’s selection ahead of the lively Honeyman was rather poor on Moyes’ part.
Tactics: Five at the Back Finally Works
Several managers have experimented with five at the back - in fact I remember Billy Jones operating in a central role during the 6-2 drubbing away to Everton last season -yet few managers have found any real success with the system. Last night, however, with Lamine Kone reinstated in a central role, Sunderland looked far more organized when tasked with defending an impressive Spurs attack.
The system relies heavily on its wing-backs to provide width and create space for those further up the pitch, and whilst Javi Manquillo was solid yet unspectacular in his defensive duties, many will be hoping that Mr. Oviedo can come in an give us the same attacking threat Van Aanholt was able to provide whilst perhaps being more disciplined in his defensive endeavours. That being said, defensively we looked very solid last night, something that enabled us to escape the drop last season.
In all, the team looked far more balanced with the returning players, in fact Jack Rodwell seems to play far better when playing alongside the energy and buzz provided by Didier Ndong. Perhaps Darron Gibson can also utilize the Gabonese man’s talents in order to find time to pick out that killer ball, if anything he can’t be much worse than Larsson who, despite putting in a shift, still looks bereft of energy and creativity.
Tom’s Rating: 8/10 - stifling Spurs is no mean feat, and credit must be given to Moyes for his approach. Offensively we still look poor, but keeping clean sheets will always be a sure fire way to pick up points.
Substitutions: Still a Weakness
David Moyes just simply doesn’t like taking players off the field: that is literally the only thing that I can surmise after recent performances.
George Honeyman was the only player to find his way onto the field from the bench, and although he certainly gave us the fresh legs required to stretch Tottenham and relieve pressure on our tiring defence, you still have to ask why another fresh pair of legs wasn’t given the opportunity to perhaps try and nick all three points.
Lynden Gooch, Adnan Januzaj, and Steven Pienaar were all warming the bench and could have certainly added a little more attacking threat, yet alas Moyesy was quite content to allow Honeyman a 20 minute cameo in order to secure the points.
I understand that a point was a great result, but you just had the feeling that someone with a little spark of creativity might have been able to provide Jermain Defoe with an opportunity to sneak the game. Never mind.
Tom’s Rating: 6/10 - Still something we need to work on.
Moyes was quick to point out the importance of Dider Ndong and Lamine Kone’s returning nothing that both had played an impressive role in the valuable point.
Didier [Ndong] and Lamine [Kone] brought that bit of energy and strength that we’ve been missing in some of the games. They look like they’ve come back a bit fresher and ready to go.
As already noted, they were indeed crucial to the team, and most definitely will give us confidence going into this weekend’s crunch game away to Crystal Palace.
He was also keen to point out just how vital this weekend will be, but understood how flat we looked in attack. If we are to stay up, we must give Jermain Defoe every opportunity possible to fire us to safety, Moyes acknowledged that as will certainly be looking for more this weekend at Selhurst Park.
We have to go to Crystal Palace and look forward to that game now, today we were solid and didn’t make too many mistakes but we’ll need to play much better to win games.
Tom’s Rating: 7/10 - Realistic but not overly dour. Fingers crossed this is the start of a revival!