Sunderland have started the 2016/17 season in abysmal form, with one draw and four defeats, leaving the club in 19th place. The Tyne and Wear side are no strangers to relegation battles, but many are predicting the club to finish the season in bottom 3.
Below we take a look at what David Moyes can do to improve his side’s fortunes?
Get the ball into Jermain Defoe:
One of the primary reasons why Sunderland stayed up under Sam Allardyce last season was the goal scoring prowess of Jermain Defoe. Big Sam tweaked his team to favour Defoe’s playing style and reaped the benefits.
Defoe’s 15 goals last season were good enough to finish 7th amongst the top scorers. Of the 6 players that finished above him, only Romelu Lukaku isn’t competing in this season’s Champions League.
Sunderland don’t have a lot of quality players, but they certainly have a man with a proven track record of consistently finding the back of the net. All David Moyes has to do is to re-model his strategy to get the most out of the 33-year-old striker, and he seems to have already realised this.
Deal with his Djilobodji problem:
Papy Djilobodji was arguably the worst player on the pitch in both league games he has played since joining Sunderland. If Sunderland are to stay in the league next season, Djilobodji will need to improve massively, or Moyes will have to replace him.
Sunderland are likely to be on the back foot for most of this season, and David Moyes needs defenders who can read the game well and show good judgment. The Senegalese defender’s performances in his first two games leave a lot to be desired.
If Djilobodji doesn’t play to the required level till the next International break, it might be time for Moyes to try the ageing but tested John O’shea.
Get the best out of Adnan Januzaj and Duncan Watmore
Sunderland’s football this season has been boring and mostly painful to watch. The Black Cats need a bit of dynamism and unpredictability if they are to get more positive results.
In Adnan Januzaj and Duncan Watmore, David Moyes has two young, dynamic and risk-taking midfielders. He needs to field the duo more often, especially against some of the less fancied teams in the division.
Admittedly, both of them can be suspect defensively, but at home against teams of similar standing, unleashing the two on defenders might help create more chances for Jermain Defoe to put away.
Get Lee Cattermole to full fitness
In Lee Cattermole’s 8 seasons at Sunderland, the club has been in a few relegation scrapes but have never finished amongst the bottom 3. Few players in the Premier League have more experience than Lee Cattermole in fighting for survival.
He recovered from injury to make his first appearance of the season in the narrow defeat at Spurs last weekend. The earlier the combative midfielder gets back to full fitness, the better for Sunderland.
Once described as a player with the “heart of a lion”, Cattermole has the leadership and experience to help motivate this Sunderland team. At the moment, they need all the help they can get.
Find a pattern that works
The biggest problem with Sunderland this season is that they are yet to find an identity their players can relate with. Under Sam Allardyce, Sunderland were a defensive minded team, and chances in games against them were hard to come by.
Under Moyes, they are neither a well drilled defensive nor a fluid attacking team. The Black Cats neither here nor there regarding playing style and strategy and players are visibly in need of instructions.
In his stints with Manchester United and Real Sociedad, Moyes failed to adopt a well thought out game plan, and his teams played without any discernable pattern producing unimpressive results. If the former Everton manager cannot settle on a strategy, his termination letter might be in the mail soon.