Sunderland host Swansea this weekend in what will be an intriguing game - even if we have little left to play for. Swansea are desperate for a win to move them out of the bottom three - aided by Sunderland’s win over Hull last weekend - and will have this game highlighted as the opportunity to save their season.
While Paul Clement looks to secure a place in the Premier League for next season, David Moyes will undoubtedly be using the final few games of the season as an opportunity to test some new ideas, and give some young players an opportunity to impress.
Last week’s win against Hull provided a much needed injection of hope and pride. A consecutive win this weekend would help to generate much needed momentum leading into this summer’s transition into the Championship. Keep thinking positive, people.
I argued last week that Moyes must be careful introducing young players into the first team, even though they do deserve a chance to prove their worth. George Honeyman certainly did his chances of earning a new contract no harm with his performance against Hull, and David Moyes will undoubtedly give several other youngsters a chance in the coming weeks.
Honeyman needed just one more start to secure a new contract, but you would think after recent showings that he will be given a new deal regardless of his rather bizarre injury.
Other youngsters still at the club like the Robsons, Elliot Embleton, Lynden Gooch, Joel Asoro and Josh Maja will all be eager to be given an opportunity to impress. However, David Moyes must be careful that in affording opportunities to young players, he doesn’t sacrifice the team’s chance of winning. The last thing these lads need is a good hiding on the pitch in some careless roll of the dice.
Hopefully Moyes is able to give the younger players an opportunity to shine whilst simultaneously protecting their confidence. Several of them will be important squad players next season, so now is the time for them to shine.
.@GHoneyman10 MOYES: "I'm trying to introduce some younger players. George's performance merited another start so I'm disappointed he won't be available."— Sunderland AFC (@SunderlandAFC) May 12, 2017
Moyes’ tactical approach to the Hull game was a nice change from the dour showings of recent weeks, and hopefully he tweaks that system very slightly ahead of this weekend’s game.
We played with two holding midfielders with Jason Denayer and Dider Ndong patrolling the middle of the pitch. In turn, this allowed George Honeyman to roam further up the field where he was able to dictate play slightly more. Fabio Borini was afforded a similar role, yet seemingly stayed out wide offering very little to the rest of the team.
This week, I’d like to see Moyes keep that same midfield duo, but perhaps pair Khazri with someone like Lynden Gooch just behind Defoe and Anichebe - dropping Borini from the starting line-up. As the game progresses - depending on the situation - Moyes could then introduce the likes of Asoro or Embleton from the bench, giving them some time to influence proceedings.
Ultimately, we’re already consigned to relegation, so why not try something a little different?
As already mentioned, youngster George Honeyman will not be available this weekend after a bizarre training ground injury involving being crushed by behemoth, Victor Anichebe. His back injury will keep him out, though Moyes had mentioned that he has been impressed by the academy product and will be looking to tie him down to a new deal.
Cattermole, Gibson and Bryan Oviedo are all still on the recovery table despite inching closer to full fitness, but could play some part in the squad potentially. Jack Rodwell appears to be back in contention amidst some furor surrounding his contract at the club, and whether he has a relegation release clause in it.
Whether Moyes will include youngsters - who are preparing for a European final this Wednesday - in his squad this weekend is a matter yet to be decided, but several may be needed just in case, and giving them a few minutes from the bench could be a much needed confidence boost ahead of this Wednesday’s final.
Predicted XI: Pickford, Jones, Kone, O’Shea, Manquillo, Denayer, Ndong, Khazri, Gooch, Defoe, Anichebe
Score Prediction: I think the players are playing with a lot more freedom in the wake of their relegation, and as infuriating as this is we need to harness this slight change in fortune in order to gather some momentum. I think players like Gooch will be desperate to prove and point, so why not give them an opportunity to shine? If we do play with the tenacity and intensity we managed last time out against Hull I can see us winning again this weekend. I’m going for a 3-1 victory.