Team Selection: Khazri!
It’s somewhat ironic that Wahbi Khazri seemingly came back from the dead this Easter weekend after being continuously doubted by Moyes. The Tunisian was nothing short of superb against West Ham, and everything positive came through his probing runs and willingness to hustle and harry.
I’ll go into more detail on Moyes’ comments about the game shortly, but the rest of the team selection was a no-brainer. Anichebe is still a nuisance, but without the pace of a natural left back, he was somewhat ineffective. I was also very pleased to see Borini come on with some fire in his belly and imitate the resurgence of Khazri. The two player’s celebrations were a little peculiar, but their delight was plain to see.
O’Shea coming back into the side proved two things for me. Number one: he deserves a new one-year deal and could be a great squad player to hold onto in the Championship. Number two: Kone seems half the player he was last season when you consider just how organised the defence was with JOS back in the side. I think Kone will be gone in the summer, and hopefully for a decent fee; he clearly doesn’t want to be here.
Tom’s rating: 7/10 - West Ham aren’t world-beaters and we’re still very poor in areas. But Moyes finally bit the bullet and gave Khazri a chance which is a positive. However, you do have to wonder just what impact he might have had if given a bigger first team role earlier in the season?
I still maintain that Sunderland have no clear tactical approach, and this is still a major worry. We scored two relatively fortunate goals (I’m not complaining, mind!) as Darren Randolph fluffed his lines twice to give us routes back into the game. Against a better side we will continue to struggle.
We seemed to play something resembling a 4-5-1 with Khazri and Anichebe operating out wide. However, I would be intrigued to see what a 4-3-1-2 could create if we moved Anichebe into the middle alongside Defoe, and asked Khazri to occupy the number 10 role where he could pick the ball up and link effectively between midfield and attack. If this doesn’t work then encourage your wing-backs to push forward where they can attack out wide, and if that doesn’t work then ask one or two of your central midfielders to push forward and give another option.
We seem to play a bland, boring and essentially beige system that offers very little excitement. The only thing that really got us going yesterday was Khazri’s exuberance and determination, which is great, but what happens if he has an off-day, an injury or indeed is marked out of the game?
Tactically, we continue to flounder, but let’s hope that Khazri can continue to shine.
Tom’s rating: 6/10 - Honestly, without Khazri’s impetus yesterday, I think we would really have struggled. I hope Moyes and his backroom staff have a plan for next season and can get the right personnel in because if not we may continue to struggle.
Substitutions: Lessons Learned
While Borini’s introduction made an instant impact yesterday - and Moyes was definitely more positive in his approach to substitutions - I was still left a little perturbed that Moyes dithered when faced with a 1-2 scoreline.
It took over 76 minutes to make our first substitution, and considering we were behind within 2 minutes of the restart you have to ask questions as to why Moyes won’t roll the dice and make a change slightly earlier? Giving Januzaj more time on the pitch means more opportunities for him to create something against a West Ham side who looked incredibly shaky at the back.
Billy Jones’ head injury provided 10 minutes of injury-time that was essentially a blessing in disguise as it brought on Borini who scored the leveller in the 90th minute. Would Moyes have thrown the Italian into the fight if he wasn’t forced to, though?
Tom’s rating: 4/10 - Still an issue that hurts our chances at winning games. We need to stop being afraid to wait until the final 15 minutes to bring subs on; hopefully Borini’s substitution has shown Moyesy that proactive game management can yield positive results.
Post-Match Comments: Khazri Craic
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.
Moyes gave this as a reason for excluding Khazri from previous starting line-ups, but after this weekend’s showing he will undoubtedly be cursing his stubbornness. Could Khazri have positively influenced the team if he had been given a starting role earlier in the season? Who knows, but it couldn’t have hurt to have tried - especially considering how desperate we’ve been for weeks now.
When pressed about Khazri’s return, Moyes gave two very different answers on the Tunisian’s return. As reported by the Sunderland Echo Moyes initially noted that:
I thought Wahbi played well today. He played in a role which kept him a bit more disciplined and he kept the ball well for us. He scored a really good goal from a corner kick, I was pleased with him. He was good.
But then when asked by Nick Barnes Moyes gave a very different answer:
NB: Inevitably, everyone will ask. Khazri, had a good game - why hasn’t he played before?
DM: He had a good game, that’s what I would say to you. He played well today and I think that’s what you would talk about rather than the other stuff, you know? You pick the team and you pick what you think is the right team, and today we picked a team that we thought could get us the right result; I thought the team today played well.
I am going to give Moyes credit for his decision to reinstall Khazri to the starting XI, but I must also admit that his response to Nick Barnes was disappointing. We’re not asking that he falls to his knees grovelling for forgiveness, but Moyes has clearly made a rather large mistake in keeping Khazri from the starting line-up, and to really dismiss Nick Barnes’ question seemed rather bizarre especially considering the relevance of the question.
Moyes was then asked about the fans voicing their displeasure toward him as he was booed and jeered by sections of the crowd. His response was somewhat odd:
The manager and the team are not doing well and they are entitled to take their frustration out on somebody. It’s nearly always the manager and I have no issue with that. I have to accept it. I just remember I’ve got the third or fourth best win record of any Premier League manager.
Initially I thought to myself that we were about to hear Moyes accept the criticism and then talk about his plans for the future and his vision for the club. Reassure the fans that the club had a plan that goes beyond buying British, or at least declare his hunger to return to winning ways. However, to merely talk about his win record is rather insulting to say the least. We’ve won 5 games all season, his historical win percentage or ratio or whatever he was alluding to means absolutely nothing to us at this point. That final sentence is quite simply pathetic and to me shows a man with little appetite for the job that lies before him.
Tom’s rating: 1/10 - Still an absolute moron when interviewed by the press. If he’s like that in front of the cameras then what’s he like in the privacy of the changing rooms?! No the wonder Borini and Khazri celebrated the way they did. Moyes has done so little to inspire any confidence this season that it’s painful to try and find ways to defend him. I literally cannot think of one good thing he’s done for us this season other than bringing Khazri back into the side?