David Moyes, after two failed spells in England and Spain with Manchester United and Real Sociedad respectively, came back to England this summer to take on the helm of Sam Allardyce at Sunderland as the latter was snapped up by the English national team this summer to replace Roy Hodgson. After a few years of sheer frustration of their team being involved in relegation battles, the Wearside club desperately need a season where relegation scare wouldn’t haunt them but looking at the start Moyes had, this might be a long hard season for them if things do not improve rapidly.
Sunderland started their season with an unfortunate 2-1 loss to mighty Manchester City which produced plenty of positives but since then it has been a sheer disappointment for the fans. They are facing a strong Spurs team this Sunday who thrashed Stoke City last weekend 4-0 at Bet365 Stadium and they could face the same fate if Moyes does not change his tactics soon.
Opt for a three-man midfield
Moyes had to deal with a severe injury crisis immediately after he took charge of the Black Cats but with Jan Kirchhoff making his way back from injury, things could improve for the Black Cats. David Moyes’ side have conceded as many as 15 shots per game this season and have conceded as many as eight goals in four games. However, if we take a look at their overall defensive figures, it would be evident that the defence is not to be blamed entirely for this. Sunderland have made 3.5 blocks, 14.3 tackles and as many as 14.8 interceptions every game as a unit. So, it is quite clear that Sunderland defenders have done more than a decent job.
Sunderland’s overall possession this season has been just 40% and their average passing accuracy is also poor i.e. just 70%. To stop conceding sloppy goals, Sunderland should switch to a 4-3-3 formation from 4-2-3-1. Kirchhoff should start as the deepest midfielder and club record signing N’dong and Rodwell should start as the two box to box midfielders.
Kirchhoff, since he joined the Black Cats from Bayern in January, has done a brilliant job in defensive midfield. He made as many as 2.93 interceptions, 0.25 blocks, 4.35 clearances and 3.35 successful tackles every 90 minutes last season. That provides a solid defensive screen in front of the back four and adds quite a lot attacking wise as well as the German made as many as one key pass and created one chance every game which is excellent for a defensive midfielder.
Didier Ndong is a midfielder boasting a tremendous work rate and passing ability. Defensively solid and an engine to the team, Ndong can prove to be the missing link in the team. He, alongside Rodwell, could make a very solid midfield trio with Kirchhoff behind them. Switching to a three-man midfield solves Sunderland’s lack of possession on the pitch and they could be more involved centrally on the pitch where they have looked vulnerable so far. Only 29% of Sunderland’s attacks have been created from the central areas and that will be solved if Moyes deploys a three-man midfield.
To improve the team attacking wise, what Moyes needs to do is to use Wahbi Khazri more. It is quite surprising to see David Moyes not rating Khazri and playing players like Gooch and Januzaj ahead of the Tunisian international. The 25-year-old played a key role in Sunderland Premier League survival last season after joining the club from Bordeaux in January.
Januzaj’s pass completion rate this season is just 70% which is not the best for a creative midfielder. 74% of Khazri’s passes were accurate last season which is not the best but the Tunisian is far more superior to Januzaj in terms of creating chances. Januzaj has created just 2 chances every 90 minutes this season whereas Khazri made 2.27 key passes and created 2.35 chances every 90 minutes last term. Khazri is far more industrious than Januzaj and makes the team improve overall as a unit.
Moyes has to realise that he is wasting his most creative player really soon and only then, Sunderland will create more chances.