Team Selection: Interesting
On paper it definitely looked like a decent side that would face Man Utd. Borini out of the staring line-up for Anichebe who would play alongside Jermain Defoe seemed a positive move - perhaps we’d snag a goal and give United a run for their money? Not likely.
The issue was, that this bizarre 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 had little to no creativity in the side. A midfield of Larsson, Cattermole, Rodwell and Ndong is asking at least 2 of those names to play as wide midfielders when in reality they’re all central midfielders not best known for their play-making abilities. At times Anichebe would drift out to the left wing, but without the pace of Van Aanholt to give him an option and the ability to find space Anichebe was rendered largely ineffective.
Khazri warming the bench once more was extremely frustrating - especially considering the fact that Moyes has openly talked about needing to gamble in recent weeks. The mercurial Tunisian is capable of moments of magic, so to continue to exclude him from the starting line-up when the club are in dire need of some creativity is an incredibly bizarre decision.
Tom’s rating: 5/10 - Where are the goals and assists going to come from? No goals in our last 7 games says it all.
I’ve argued in recent weeks that it seems the team have little in the way of a plan for games. Nothing I have witnessed in our last several games has changed my mind.
The players are seemingly clueless, and - apart from a small spell before United’s first goal - did nothing during Sunday’s game that demonstrated the foundations of a system or style of play.
Kevin Kilbane has an article on the BBC right now whereby he analyzes what’s going wrong with Moyes and the team, and this segment really epitomises for me the main issue with Moyes’ reign thus far:
I thought he would stop them shipping goals because, having worked with him at Preston and Everton, when things went against us and we did not play well he would make sure we always knew how to be solid and hard to beat.
He has not had that impact on the Sunderland team. Instead, everything about them has been flat right from the start of the season.
There is no fight, and determination to be resolute. The steadfast unity found under Allardyce toward the end of last season has seemingly evaporated, and in its place stands a team who look defeated before they even kick a ball.
Tom’s rating: 3/10 - Still have no idea how we want to play as a team - answers on a postcard?
After Seb Larsson earned himself an early bath, the game was United’s who proceeded to cruise through the rest of the game in second gear. It was a feeble attempt by the Lads, and left me feeling deflated. I didn’t expect us to win by any means, but I’m just waiting for that one game whereby the players give us a glimpse of something to be excited about.
Oviedo’s substitution was required, but the only other substitution saw Lee Cattermole removed with 25 minutes left to play. Fabio Borini took his place and did very little to lift the team. Moyes opted against making any further substitutions, and this irks me. There was nowt more to lose, so why not throw Khazri on and let him have a go? At this stage in the season what is the point in being cautious and conservative? Damage limitation? Give over. We’re as good as relegated and we need a spark to get us excited about the future; guarding a 2 goal deficit in the name of respect is pathetic.
Tom’s rating: 2/10 - Have we made a substitution this season that has had any sort of impact on the game?
Post-Match Comments: Flat
Kilbane was quick to point out that Moyes has indeed been intensely negative this season nothing that:
Moyes has been very negative about the club's situation too, which is very unlike him. Right from the start, I got the sense he was unhappy with his situation.
The interview he gave after his side's defeat by Middlesbrough in August where he told fans to "expect a relegation battle" suggested to me that there was something else on the agenda, and maybe he was not getting the transfer funds he had been promised.
Moyes’ flat, pessimistic comments this season have done absolutely nothing to encourage the players or the fans. This was witnessed yet again in the wake of Sunday’s defeat.
We were hanging in the game and staying in the game and trying to do our best. We gave away a poor goal and I thought we needed to get a lot closer. When we went down to 10 men it made it a lot harder.
I actually thought we had a decent spell in the game just before their first goal, yet Moyes made no mention of that in his post-match comments. I’m not saying he should label us world-beaters, but just look at those comments and tell me where there is anything remotely positive? The word choice is inherently negative with hanging, staying, and trying setting Moyes’ flat, uninterested tone. No the wonder we’re so apathetic.
We keep going. We have another home game next Saturday and we have to try and win it. We do some good things but just lack a bit of quality but it's not for the want of trying. The boys are doing everything they can.
Even semi-positive comments are difficult to accept because they’re framed with negativity. The beginning of the second sentence of the above quote starts on a positive note, but Moyes is then quick to add negative comments that kill any positivity. The final sentence is just defeatist, and misguided - the boys clearly aren’t doing everything they can because we’re 20th and have sat in the relegation zone for 219 days this season out of a possible 240.
Moyes just finds it difficult to be positive, and whilst many label that as realism, it simply isn’t. The constant argument that we have a lack of quality is my chief irritation. Moyes signed over 10 players this season, why sign any of them if they don’t bring quality to the team?
Negativity is a disease within organizations; bad management who do little to inspire their staff are asking for poor performances. Would you really thrive under a boss who constantly finds ways to lower expectations? Moyes has seemingly created an environment in the dressing-room that does nothing to inspire his players - their flat, languid performances are evidence of that. I look at Sam Allardyce’s success here last season and wonder how much of that was down to his persona as manager? That exuberant, self-assured style of his must have certainly rubbed off on his players, and it makes me wonder just how much leadership truly affects performance.
Tom’s rating: 0/10 - Moyes has done nothing to inspire confidence or belief all season. You can’t criticize the quality of your players and expect them to do well, just as you can’t expect to avoid a relegation battle if you’re suggesting we’ll be in one before we’ve even kicked a ball in anger.