Today’s performance at Vicarage Road was yet another dull display from David Moyes’ Sunderland, and it has them looking in one direction.
In a game they surely needed to win they played with very little passion, direction or anything resembling a plan. The team selection, which once again saw the omission of Didier Ndong and the presence of the drastically out of form Fabio Borini, indicated that today was only ever going one way.
It was Jason Denayer who kept Ndong out of the side, this time, playing alongside Jack Rodwell & Darron Gibson. I can only imagine it was because Denayer had the required “Britishness” to play against a Watford team containing just two players from the UK. Unfortunately, the Britishness displayed by Denayer was through aimless lumped passes and an inability to take responsibility.
There was a flicker here and there from Sunderland, mainly during a bright opening 10 minutes, highlighted by four corners. One came after a storming Jack Rodwell run, which led to his shot being deflected over and an Adnan Januzaj cross evaded everyone, until being parried wide by Huerelho Gomes.
Watford were showing their ability to break quickly, however - Jordan Pickford was called into action twice in quick succession, first by Niang and then by Okaka. The best chance of the opening twenty would see Okaka involved again, when a cross from the right found him relatively unchallenged but he failed to hit the target.
The majority of the first half meandered along in the same fashion. Watford controlled the game but ultimately failed to test Pickford, as Kone & O’Shea blocked runs and cut out any potential through balls. It took a break from a Sunderland corner for Watford to really put the frighteners up the visitors, when Niang once again tried to catch Pickford out at the near post.
A poorly executed corner routine gave The Hornets the chance to use their pace to trouble Sunderland. A deflected Januzaj shot won the set piece but Gibson’s daisy cutting cross was easily cut out, and out came Watford. This was part of a late first half flurry, where both sides tried to land punches but little came of either sides swinging. The corner from Niang’s shot almost saw the ball bundled into the Sunderland net, followed by Lamine Kone firing a snapshot wide from the edge of the box.
In the second half Watford finally made their dominance count just before the hour mark. A corner was swung in from the left and once again Okaka had acres of space but, just like he did in the first half, he failed to hit the target. This time he struck the bar, via Borini, and the ball was headed back across to Britos at the back post, who nodded home.
This was David Moyes’ cue to make a change and Ndong replaced the laboured Gibson. Finally there was some dynamism in the midfield, as Ndong got Sunderland into dangerous areas and brilliantly set up Adnan Januzaj, who fired a weak shot into the arms of Gomes, when he should have done much better. Ndong did more to bring Sunderland forward in five minutes, than arguably any of his teammates did throughout the entire game.
Apart from Borini flashing a shot or two at Gomes and substitute Wahbi Khazri yelling at a linesman, that would be as good as it got for Sunderland. They huffed and puffed, as Watford sat deep to protect their lead but Gomes’ gloves were rarely warmed. The home side saw out the game, as Khazri drove a freekick straight into the wall.
It leaves David Moyes and his team in a position that is growing more and more perilous by the week. Unless he starts taking something resembling a risk, this team is going down without a fight. Seeing Lee Cattermole’s name among the substitutes may ignite some hope that a dose of leadership and enthusiasm can be thrust back into the team but even so, it looks like being too little too late.
With Sunderland seven points from the team in 18th position, it’s hard to look anywhere but down now.