Team Selection: Conservative
The decision to keep both Dider Ndong and Wahbi Khazri consigned to the bench once more was nothing short of baffling, in my opinion. A side desperate for energy and creative output after having failed to score in our previous four (now five) games was crying out for the energy of Ndong and the mercurial talents of Khazri.
However, once more they were left out of the starting line up and once more we failed to secure the points required to give ourselves a fighting chance of survival. Disappointing to say the least.
It is understandable that Moyes is cautious considering how poor we’ve been all season, but surely now is the time to abandon this unbearable brand of conservatism in favour of something dynamic and daring? Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, and once more we were left with that sinking sensation.
Tom’s Rating: 4/10 - Injuries have hurt our chances for a lot of this season, but the reluctance to give Khazri genuine game time, and the bizarre decision to drop Ndong for a lack of Britishness and height is beyond reason.
As the team-sheets were released there was a brief moment or two where it appeared that Moyes had decided to revert to the 3-5-1-1 system that genuinely looked pretty decent. Upon second glance however, it was clear to see that Denayer was to be playing in a holding midfield role, and we would persist with the uninspiring 4-1-2-2-1 system that Moyes seems adamant to continue with.
While Moyes clearly doesn’t want to rush Lee Cattermole back into action, the decision as to why Jason Denayer was preferred over Didier Ndong, left many scratching their heads. Denayer has been hit and miss this season, and unfortunately for us at the weekend his performance was one to forget. The same can be said for the persistent use of Fabio Borini who is dreadfully out of form; why Khazri or even Lynden Gooch haven’t been afforded the opportunity to make a difference is genuinely an enigma that I can’t seem to fathom.
Essentially, Sunderland should be playing with inside forwards if Januzaj and Borini are together on the pitch; however, neither of them seem to be able to truly master the role. Giving Januzaj the freedom provided in a number 10 role enabled him to be so much more effective - just look at the way in which he dominated proceedings away to Crystal Palace; whereas Fabio Borini just looks totally bereft of confidence. It’s frustrating to watch.
Tom’s Rating: 3/10 - To stick with a system that has failed to produce any goals in the previous 495 minutes and has provided a solitary win in our last 12 games is just madness.
Substitutions: Poor once more
I’m sick of slagging Moyes off, I really am. I want the bloke to succeed desperately because his success would equate to our success; the negativity in these recent articles really gets me and many others down in the dumps. But in fairness, Moyes does so little to inspire any confidence that it’s hard to be positive.
Substitutions are a prime example of Moyes’ lack of positivity. Moyes waited until we went a goal down before introducing Dider Ndong - why? We weren’t exactly lighting up the field of play. Surely an earlier substitution could have provided the energy we needed to take the game to Watford? Waiting until it’s too late seems to be a recurring theme regarding substitutions - he just doesn’t use them effectively.
It’s so frustrating to watch, especially when there’s adequate replacements on the bench now that our injury crisis is easing. Personally, I see Moyes’ inability to make progressive substitutions as a sign of self-doubt; he doesn’t want to take risks in case we go behind when it can be argued that because we didn’t make those changes, we ended up going behind. It’s almost paradoxical, and desperately needs to be remedied.
Tom’s Rating: 4/10 - At least Khazri and Ndong might have demonstrated to the gaffer that positive substitutions need to be made earlier if we are to stand a chance of winning.
Post-Match Comments: Bland and slightly ridiculous
I won’t venture into critiquing slapgate; however, I will analyze Moyes’ post-match comments.
Moyes’ demeanor just does so little to inspire any confidence that it’s difficult to not be negative ourselves - something I think has crept into the player’s style of play. He did little wrong in his post-match comments, but at the same time, he did little right, either.
I am disappointed we lost. There was not much in the game. I thought we deserved something. We worked very hard. Set pieces were always going to be difficult. We had done a good job but on one where we turned off it cost us.
Furthermore, his insistence that we have a lack of quality in the squad is an excuse that is frustrating. I genuinely believe we have the quality to be a team living comfortably outside of the relegation zone, and with close to £40 million being spent across two windows, I would hope we would have acquired some quality.
"It has been problem for us [scoring]. We are trying to score a goal, trying to create more. We lacked quality and when we did get an opportunity we didn't take it."
A day or so later, more quotes were unveiled in the local press whereby Moyes gave an answer as to why Dider Ndong was excluded from the starting line-up.
He was in contention, but we had to consider the size of Watford. We had to find a team which could give us players who could compete at set pieces or we might have been goals down before we got to 1-0 down.
We just didn’t have enough stature in the team to deal with what Watford had.
We are playing Fabio Borini, Adnan Januzaj, Jermain Defoe – we have probably only got one more attacking player in the squad that we have available. So you can’t turn around and say we are not having a go.
It’s an odd answer that technically makes sense, but seems rather bizarre because you could argue that Ndong’s tenacity and stamina would help Sunderland keep the ball, or force Watford into giving up possession. Moyes’ statements didn’t really wash with me, and left me questioning his decisions... again. It felt like we’d accepted that we wouldn’t be able to control the game before a ball was even kicked, and it wasn’t as if we were playing on of the league’s bigger clubs - very disappointing.
Tom’s Rating: 6/10 - He gave us answers, but they were a little wish-washy. At least he is being scrutinised I suppose, which is something that enables us to better form an opinion of the man in charge.