It’s easy to just have blind faith. As a Sunderland supporter, it’s often the only thing you can cling on to. Convincing yourself something will work based on nothing but hope. Between the defeat to Middlesbrough and the surrender to Arsenal, it was difficult to even blindly back David Moyes though. Even they most optimistic of optimists was struggling to come up with reasons as to why Moyes would turn things around.
There was no clear plan, the team selections were confusing and even Moyes himself sounded like he was kidding himself when he started telling us that “we’re not far away from clicking.” It’s beginning to look like he was right though because things clicked so loudly against Leicester, it sounded like the cast of West Side Story were strolling around the Stadium of Light. The defence looked mean and solid, backed up by a fantastic goalkeeper. Even though the manager was forced into a double change in midfield, all five players who featured put in good shifts. Up front, Defoe & Anichebe were once again a very dangerous duo and Duncan Watmore’s recent form means losing him for the season will be quite a blow.
No side can put in such a good all round performance without significant input from the manager. Every idea David Moyes had for the last game was the correct one and it went against what most of thought Sunderland should do. I can only speak for myself, of course, but I didn’t want to see us trying to dominate the ball. I thought Leicester would kill us on the break since we’d just be ponderous and our attacks would break down. It was the total opposite though. The Lads were brilliant when in possession, moving the ball around quickly and constantly creating chances. It got to the point where every time we crossed the halfway line, you genuinely thought we’d test the ‘keeper. And even when Leicester did break, we were usually organised enough to make sure that nothing came of it. It’s a style that Moyes has being trying to implement for weeks now and it seems he was right to persist with it. The team knew when to go long to Anichebe but they also knew when to build up the field more intricately. A refreshing variety to the attacking play that we haven’t seen at the Stadium of Light for a long time.
We all like to offer our opinion on who the gaffer should pick and the team I’d have sent out was definitely the wrong one, having seen the way we played. There were two players I didn’t want to see start – Papy Djilobodji & Steven Pienaar. Since John O’Shea played well against Liverpool, I didn’t see why we should change things. Making me look like a total fool, Djilobodj had his best game since arriving on Wearside, rewarding the managers faith in going back to the defence that kept a clean sheet against Hull City. As for Pienaar, I thought he wouldn’t get us forward quick enough when he picked up the ball in deeper areas but, before going off injured, he was probably our best player. Both he and Patrick van Aanholt were linking up brilliantly and all of our attacking play was being built by Pienaar.
Maybe it was right to say that injuries weren’t helping Moyes either. That’s often written off as a weak excuse but look at how influential Jan Kirchhoff and Sebastian Larsson were when they came on. Look at how much more solid we’ve been on the right hand side since Billy Jones got back to full fitness. I suppose you could even include Victor Anichebe in that, given he wasn’t fit when he signed and has been in devastating form since breaking into the team. There may be disappointing long term lay offs in the squad but it’s comforting to know that David Moyes can get a tune out of Sunderland, when the men who can best put his ideas into practise are on the field.
With experience coming back into the side it can only be of benefit to players like Didier Ndong, who has had to spend much of his Sunderland career alongside players low on confidence, lacking leadership and in bad form. Playing in a midfield with Kirchhoff & Larsson will do him the world of good though, as he’ll get more guidance and their ability to get things moving quickly should allow Ndong to stick to breaking up play and laying the ball off. Even if Pienaar or Jason Denayer comes into that instead of one of the aforementioned three, it will still be a midfield that compliments each other. Players who are good on the ball, work hard off it and will win possession back. Even with Lee Cattermole out for a while, it looks like we now have a bit of a selection headache in the middle. That was unthinkable just a few weeks ago.
Form can always be temporary but David Moyes has given the Sunderland supporters reason to have faith in him. We’ve now witnessed him organise his team into getting good results, while playing some nice football, for a sustained period. It was right to question the manager after most of our earlier games but he’s got so much right over the last four matches, he deserves our trust as we approach a crucial point in the season. Whatever we do and whoever play against Swansea, I’ll be behind it the decisions. There’s still some issues to iron out in the team but given how much more improved we look currently, there’s reason to believe we’ll improve on any inadequacies.
It’s no longer blind faith to back David Moyes, there’s now evidence to suggest he can revitalise Sunderland.