Sunderland face mid-table Burnley this weekend at the Stadium of Light where Moyes’ men will attempt to secure their first win against the Lancashire based side this season, despite having played them three times already this campaign. It’s a clichéd phrase that we hear all too often, but this weekend really is a must-win game as we sit 6 points adrift from safety at the bottom of the table. If we are to stand any real chance of survival, this weekend is where it must begin.
One glimmer of hope may emerge from the fact that Burnley have an exceedingly poor record away from home. In fact, Sean Dyche’s men have failed to record a single away victory so far this season; Moyes and his troops must head into this weekend’s game ready to come out fighting.
Burnley will also want to come away with another win to further secure their mid-table position which has been gained largely thanks to an incredible resilience forged at home this season. Liverpool, Everton and Southampton have all succumbed at Turf Moor, while Manchester United and Chelsea have only managed a draw. That being said, 2 draws and 12 defeats away from home describes a team lacking confidence on the road. Sunderland must take advantage.
As discussed in our weekly podcast, The Roker Rapport, Burnley (on paper) look like a team who Sunderland should be capable of competing against and potentially beating. However, Sean Dyche has worked wonders at Burnley this season, and this weekend won’t be a walk in the park. After spending something in the region of £40,000,000 across two transfer windows, Dyche seems to have forged a side capable of beating the drop and potentially evolving into a stable, sustainable club. Time will tell for Burnley, but right now they’re sitting rosy.
A solid, well-structured squad has enabled Burnley to thrive in the new dawn of Premier League football. While many clubs have spent big and recruited from far and wide in order to gain success, Burnley have recruited players predominantly from within the UK. These purchases have complimented the existing squad rather well. The likes of Tom Heaton, Ben Mee, Michael Keane, Dean Marney, Sam Vokes and George Boyd were all Burnley players in their last Premier League season, and these players have returned to the Premier League hunger and eager to impress. They provide a stable core which enables the unity required to be successful - especially at Turf Moor.
However, it should be stressed that this weekend’s visitors are currently without a win in their last 5 EPL games - this could be the perfect opportunity to find a much needed 3 points and inject some momentum into our season. We will have to be on top of our game if we are to emerge successful, but Moyes and his men will know that this is the best opportunity they will have had in a while at finding some desperately needed points, and their performance must reflect the desperate importance of this weekend’s fixture.
Essentially, if we are to gain anything from the game we must be far more creative when in possession of the ball. You can’t fault the players for their effort and energy levels, but unfortunately running around the pitch for 90 minutes isn’t the key to Premier League survival. Creating chances for Jermain Defoe is seemingly our only viable option for survival; if we can’t give him the service, we won’t escape the clutches of relegation. It’s that simple.
As much as Fabio Borini runs around and wins free-kicks, he simply doesn’t offer us enough in terms of either goals or assists. Surely now is the time to give Wahbi Khazri a chance at redemption? Earlier this season Moyes complained about Khazri giving the ball away too much when asked about his omissions from the starting line-up, but Borini hasn’t exactly been fantastic in possession of the ball either. Khazri only managed to score 2 goals last season and provide one assist, but his general energy and willingness to try and make something happen was enough at times to spur the team forward in search of goals. Surely with so much on the line, and with so little success thus far this campaign, Moyes must now roll the dice and give Khazri and opportunity to succeed?
An attacking trio of Januzaj, Khazri and Defoe should threaten most teams around us as they have the quality to create opportunites, but in general the entire team need to display more attacking intent when in possession of the ball. Hoofing the ball long should be a last resort, whilst moving the ball as quickly as possible to Khazri and Januzaj in space should be a our preferred method of attack. Marauding wing-backs can offer options out wide, too, but if that is to be the case more players must get themselves into the opposition box. If we want to avoid the drop, our conservative approach to football must be discarded; we must be far more aggressive in our attacking play if we are to cause problems for the teams we face over the coming weeks. It has to begin this weekend - we won’t get a better opportunity to reverse our fortunes.
Moyes had little new to say this week other than disclosing the fact that German midfielder, Jan Kirchhoff would be out for somewhere between 6-8 weeks with a reoccurrence of his longstanding knee problems. Other players are also injured, but little information was divulged. Anichebe is on the road to recovery alongside Lee Cattermole, who could feature in the coming weeks.
BBC Newcastle’s, Nick Barnes, also left a teasing tweet noting that:
David Moyes has 'other injuries but at this moment in time wishes to keep them close to his chest' #safc— Nick Barnes (@Tweed_Barnesy) March 17, 2017
What on earth could it mean?
Predicted XI: Pickford, Oviedo, O’Shea, Kone, Jones, Larsson, Gibson, Ndong, Januzaj, Borini, Defoe.
Score Prediction: If ever there was a need for 3 points this would be it; a win could be huge whereas a defeat could be disastrous. Moyes needs to really get the Lads up for this game - our future depends on it.