Team Selection: Ndong?
Moyes’ decision to drop the energetic Gabonese midfielder was met with raised eyebrows this weekend as people struggled to comprehend the decision to bench arguably our best midfield player this season. We’ll get onto Moyes’ comments about the decision later, but to ask a midfield trio of Gibson, Larsson and Rodwell to dominate proceedings just isn’t going to happen! Saturday’s game was crying out for Ndong’s athleticism, yet he was left warming the bench for 75 minutes. Bizarre.
Moyes’ decision to keep Wahbi Khazri shackled to the subs bench is another point that must be questioned. When probed about the Tunisian’s absences in the past Moyes stated that:
I told Wahbi right from the start that I needed him to retain possession. He is the type of player that I need to either score me a goal or make me a goal. And the games where I have put him in, he hasn’t done that for me. I need that to happen.
With his comments about Khazri’s shortcomings, Moyes has seemingly created a footballing paradox that I would like to call Möyesinger's Khatzri (sorry not sorry). Essentially Moyes wants a midfielder that takes risks, creates chances and scores goals, but doesn’t give the ball away. Erm...?
It goes without saying that Khazri and Ndong’s inclusion wouldn’t have guaranteed any success this past weekend, but it would have demonstrated that Moyes was willing to take chances in an attempt at securing the much needed three points; disappointing to say the least.
Tom’s rating: 6/10 - Not the worst thing imaginable, but an unwillingness to roll the dice at this stage in the season is worrying.
Tactics: Still no plan!?
I could take the defeats and the league position if it genuinely looked like we had some sort of coherent strategy in place - but we don’t. People argue that Moyes has been dealt a bad hand and is doing the best that he can, but I just can’t buy into that. He’s brought in players of his own choosing, and cannot motivate a squad that on paper should be out of the relegation battle. To me it’s a lack of identity and confidence that has crippled us this season, and much of that falls at the feet of Moyes.
As fellow writer, Rory Fallow, pointed out in this week’s Talking Tactics, Moyes found a system that worked several weeks ago in the 3-5-1-1, but abandoned it as soon as it experienced a defeat. Yes we kept a clean sheet yesterday, but in attack we looked totally toothless against a side that hasn’t won away from home all season. We’ve had over 20 games to fathom the best way to support Jermain Defoe, both with Victor Anichebe, and without him; surely we should have found a more threatening system by now?
It’s just disappointing to see the Lads play out a goalless draw against a side incapable of winning away from home. I hope I’m not alone in thinking we should be doing better?
Tom’s rating: 3/10 - Our tactical approach hasn’t been planned or developed all season long.
Substitutions: Once again too little too late
Sam Vokes came on for Burnley in the 65th minute as Dyche pushed for a win, Sunderland’s first substitution? The 75th minute as Moyes brought Ndong on for the tiring Gibson; 5 minutes later and Khazri came on for Larsson. It’s just too little too late. Expecting players to get up to match speed and influence the game within 10-15 minutes hasn’t worked all season, so why would it suddenly work now?
Moyes has been guilty of leaving substitutions until too late all season, and it’s infuriating to witness. Players need time to get to grips with the game and its speed - asking Khazri to produce magic with 10 minutes to play is akin to asking an artist to paint a masterpiece within a day - more than likely is just isn’t possible.
I know Moyes isn’t the sole essence of all our problems at the club, but to be unable to influence a game through tactical plans and in-game decisions, whilst simultaneously deriding your squad’s ability, seems absolutely mental to me. These are basic requirements expected of every football manager, and unfortunately David Moyes just isn’t getting the basics right.
Tom’s rating: 4/10 - Moyes just doesn’t act soon enough.
Post-Match Comments: Britishness
Moyes began his pre-match chatter in a similar fashion - quickly noting his squad’s lack of quality:
Billy had a header, Adnan had a chance at the back post, there were three or four. The players gave their all but we lacked a bit of quality at times - in all areas.
Give over, man. I’m sick of hearing about a lack of quality in all areas; 8 of the match day squad were Moyes signings, with 4 of them in the starting line-up. If these players weren’t good enough to make a mark on the Premier League, then why buy them? It’s not good enough to just blame a lack of quality. Burnley don’t have a batch of star players running rings around the opposition week in and week out; they play as a unit and have a clear strategy - something Moyes has failed to forge with our own squad. Our current predicament isn’t due to a lack of quality, it’s due to a lack of direction and cohesiveness.
That being said, Moyes’ post-post-match comments were far more interesting. Talking to the media Moyes claimed that:
I decided I wanted Jack and Gibbo together. I thought the game might suit more Britishness in the middle of the pitch.
What!? An absolutely laughable comment that Moyes went on to repeat two more times arguing that Papy Djilibodji needs, “to get the Britishness into him” and that Billy Jones’ inclusion is partially down to his own “Britishness” - honestly we’re not making it up.
If this bland, uninspiring brand of sleep-inducing football is an indictment of British football, then count me out because the football being served to us by the team at the moment is absolute dross.
Tom’s Rating: 2/10 - Stop the train, I’m getting off. Same old excuses and no risks on the field. Uninspiring to say the least.