Team Selection: Encouraging
The last few months have been excruciatingly difficult for all Sunderland fans, and David Moyes has been the recipient of much of the anger emanating from the stands. We’ve notched up a handful of wins, and will drop down a division come season’s end. Thus, I think it’s fair to say that our criticism of the man in charge has been fair in all honesty.
However, this weekend was a bizarre one. Moyes gambled with his starting line-up and tried something new tactically; ultimately it worked and we came home from Humberside with 3 points and some pride. The win was much welcomed, but does pose the question: why are we showing such fight when there’s so little left to play for?
I understand several players will be putting themselves in the shop window, but ultimately I felt our win was founded upon the performances of Pickford (obviously), Ndong and Honeyman - all young lads eager to impress and desperate to merely play the game professionally.
Moyes now has a decision to make. He dropped Khazri for Honeyman - which was met with some raised eyebrows - so will he risk dropping other senior players in order to give game time to youngsters eager to impress? Fabio Borini’s place in the team must certainly be up for debate, and Lynden Gooch must be itching at the chance to show his value ahead of next season. The same could be said for other young players, too. They must be shielded from negativity, yet they must also be afforded time to impress. It’s a tricky balancing act that Moyes must sensibly manage.
Tom’s Rating: 8/10 - A refreshing change with energy, enthusiasm and athleticism found on the field. Could this be the start of a small revival in fortunes? Hopefully, because we need some positivity going into the summer.
I was impressed that we tried something a little different this weekend. We moved Honeyman into a more advanced role, and tasked Ndong and Denayer with winning the ball back and distributing it effectively. We didn’t play with wingers, but did encourage the full-backs to push forward and offer a creative outlet. Anichebe and Defoe didn’t really work too well together, but it did show that there is something in that formation and style of play that could come good.
I still think Borini is a waste of space, and I wasn’t quite sure where he fitted into that system because while he hovered out wide, Honeyman was everywhere trying to close down the opposition and win the ball back. Sometimes he was out wide, and sometimes he was in the middle - essentially he seemed to gravitate toward the action and offered an outlet. Borini, on the other hand, did very little.
Going forward I would like to see both Honeyman and Gooch given the opportunity to act as roaming playmakers in a sense. They could be positioned out wide, but allowed to roam from that area to wherever they are needed. They both work had and both are willing to give it their all. Some might view it as a risk, but what do we really have to lose?
Tom’s Rating: 7/10 - I’m probably being a bit harsh, but Borini really did nothing in my opinion; his ineffectiveness was an obvious flaw in our gameplan, and has been for quite some time.
We won and it was a good win for the club, but I’m not sure why Moyes didn’t make another change. Larsson came on for Honeyman after 79 minutes, and that was it. I wish we were a little more proactive in our substitutions, for I feel it’s a real weakness of ours.
I know it was only 1-0 until the final moments of the game, but some fresh legs in the middle might have further helped our case. I’m splitting hairs here, but this is definitely something that has been an issue all season.
Going into the final few games, I really would like to see Moyes give a few fringe players the opportunity to impress from the bench. Asoro, Embleton, Gooch, E. Robson, and Honeyman strike me as several youngsters who could definitely bring something to the game even if it’s for no more than 10-15 minutes.
Hopefully Moyes gives them a chance from the bench.
Tom’s Rating: 7/10 - Larsson provided an assist which is to be applauded, but we’re still very slow to react to the game and influence it via changes in personnel.
Post-Match Comments: Meaty
I think everyone's issue with Moyes has been the manner in which he has spoken publicly. From predicting a relegation threatened campaign, to ‘threatening’ reporters, Moyes has been a disaster in terms of PR.
I thought at first he might just be keen to instill a sense of realism into the club, but that quickly disintegrated into pessimism. The likes of Peter Reid, Steve Bruce (to an extent), and Sam Allardyce had connections with the fans because as realistic as they often were, they still emanated a sense of self-belief. They inspired confidence, certain that they would be able to guide the players through the good and the bad.
David Moyes just hasn’t done that. He exudes little in the way of charisma and inspires no real confidence. It’s hard for us to believe in him, so you have to wonder if the players can either?
The players showed a great deal of pride in the performance as a team and individuals.
We defended well when we needed to, Jordan (Pickford) made a couple of outstanding saves, we probably had another two or three chances when Jermain was through second half and on another day, he might have scored.
Overall, it was a good, strong, meaty performance from the players.
Moyes gave his usual beige comments, but you always feel he could perhaps be a little more confident or bold in the way in which he talks. He seems rather bereft of self-belief and that comes across painfully so.
If Moyes does stay beyond the season’s end - which looks highly likely - I think the fans need to see more from him in terms of his personality, and by that I mean we need to be able to buy into what he has to say. He needs to be bold, realistic and also confident - it’s a tricky mixture to balance, but he simply has to improve.
Tom’s Rating: 6/10 - Moyes said nothing wrong, yet said very little to get excited about either. It’s an issue that he simply has to resolve.