by Tom Walsh
On Sunday afternoon, almost 24 hours after Sunderland endured yet another defeat, BBC Sport tweeted that “you have to feel sorry for David Moyes”. The case for the defence of the former Everton manager was also trumpeted by Steve McManaman saying that Moyes “would have to be Houdini” to better a total than 2 points in 9 games.
BT Sport colleague Glenn Hoddle made the point that under pressure managers such as Stoke’s Mark Hughes and West Ham’s Slaven Bilic have been able to turn their fortunes around after a shaky start. However, he failed to miss a glaring connection these clubs – they both beat Sunderland.
There seems to be this overriding feeling that Moyes is simply doing Sunderland a favour by taking over the managerial hotseat in the wake of Sam Allardyce’s departure in the summer. A sense that when teams roll over his feeble Black Cats he can turn to the camera, shrug and have an expression of “what did you expect me to do with this lot”?
Moyes’ demeanour since he walked into the Stadium of Light has been one of overwhelming negativity. Proclaiming that Sunderland were in a relegation fight after just two games was an appalling message to send to a group of players that, prior to his arrival, finished the previous campaign with one defeat in 11. It not only suggested that he didn’t believe the players could do anything more than this over the next 36 games but also he didn’t believe he could do any better.
Moyes will no doubt point to the lack of time to properly prepare for the season ahead but his remit was strikingly obvious – continue the good work of Big Sam and gradually tweak the side in his own image. Re-signing loan players such as Yann M’Vila and DeAndre Yedlin and holding onto the influential Younes Kaboul would’ve kept continuity that Sunderland have desperately craved for years.
Big money was spent on the likes of Papy Djilobodji, Didier Ndong and the combined deal of Paddy McNair and Donald Love – players who have thus far simply not been up to the task. While the additions of Steven Pienaar, Victor Anichebe and Adnan Januzaj have plugged gaps it has made the decision to loan out the talented, albeit frustrating, Jeremain Lens look misjudged.
Sunderland have admittedly been besieged with injuries with a number of regular first-teamers such as Jan Kirchhoff, Fabio Borini, Vito Mannone, Lee Cattermole and Sebastian Larsson suffering long spells on the side-lines. However, it has still left the Black Cats with a squad and first XI that should be able to compete with similar level of Premier League sides.
Teams like Burnley are able to grind out results despite having a limited squad thanks to a disciplined and organised system. It is the complete opposite with Sunderland where there seems to be no form of plan which just invites pressure in every match. Even when a result is within grasp, Moyes’ negative tactics are their undoing.
The Black Cats have conceded goals after 85 minutes in four of their nine games dropping points in every instance. While it does point to a chronic lack of concentration it must also be noted Moyes’ defensive instincts throughout.
It couldn’t have been more evident against West Ham where Sunderland had looked on course for a valuable point against a frustrated Hammers side, still not comfortable with their new surroundings at the London Stadium. Moyes’ removal of winger Wahbi Khazri replacing him with full back Billy Jones gave the initiative to Bilic’s side who scored the winner consigning Sunderland to a worst ever Premier League start by any club.
When appointed in the summer, Moyes admitted that he could’ve taken the position prior to Allardyce’s reign but thought that Sunderland’s start to the 2015/16 would have seen them relegated. Flash forward almost a year and the Black Cats are in a much worse position with a worse squad and a manager who couldn’t back himself to get them out the quagmire the previous campaign.
Moyes’ record at Everton speaks for itself but his failures at both Manchester United and Real Sociedad mean that Sunderland could really be his last crack at the big time. Supporters are already starting to point fingers for this laughable start to the season and Moyes needs to step up, shoulder some of the blame and attempt to sort out yet another mess at the Stadium of Light.
He does not need nor deserve sympathy and excuses.