After eight games, Sunderland fans are probably worried already. Sunderland have started this season the same way as they do with any manager – terribly. For years now, the club has been in a horrible malaise that sees the club lurch to disaster before somehow finding their way out. This summer, the club lost their identikit manager, Sam Allardyce, to the England job.
We wonder now, midweek revelations aside, if they would take him back? “Big Sam” had people working towards a goal that they achieved, in the end, without much trouble. He might have some dubious credentials to his name following his rather open discussions about third-party ownership over pints of wine, but he done an exceptional job on Wearside.
His successor, David Moyes, could not be doing any worse.
Moyes arrived with the dreaded reputation of a “safe pair of hands” and immediately began to dampen expectation. After just eight games, the Moyes era has been in charge for five significant losses. The worst coming last weekend, with a 2-0 score line transforming into a 3-2 loss.
The most damning part? The winner. Moyes is a manager famed for “solidity” and that should mean putting up with dour football in exchange for defensive security. Instead, this solidity was replaced with both dour football and hapless defending. To allow Christian Benteke the freedom of the box to thunder home the winner in stoppage time is criminal.
A Dereliction of All Duties
Now, defenders of Moyes can point out that players should take responsibility and leadership. But, as was pointed out on BBC’s Match of the Day that weekend by Kevin Kilbane, it was a Moyes setup. The players followed the rigid structure for defending corners set up by Moyes, one which Kilbane himself stated he knew well from his time with David.
Whilst the players should obviously take charge for not marking Benteke, the manager should take responsibility for not preparing the players for the change. Benteke took up a position he hadn’t at other set pieces in the match – why, then, were the players not shown to adapt?
The general rule of thumb is you don’t break structure and you don’t break formation on defending set pieces. You stand where you were told by the management, and do the best that you can. When things are going wrong in football you try and stay in the team structure as much as possible. The players could have acted faster and sharper, but sticking to team instructions to the letter is more or less protocol when things are going wrong.
The plan, then, was as poor as the players. Why did nobody from the coaching team adjust to adapt the threats that were incoming?
You would expect the plan to be adjusted from the touchline when this was spotted before the ball came in. Players, especially players in a team which is failing don’t break ranks and follow instructions to the letter.
They don’t want to take risks through fear of looking foolish or by making the situation worse. Moyes, though, used a common tactic of his and threw his players under the bus. He immediately removed all responsibility from himself and his staff and put it on the players.
Surely, though, both parties are at fault?
It’s not the signs of a happy camp, though, to be throwing around blame and accusation when things go wrong. Managers who use these tactics early usually leave early, too. We would expect that, on current trajectory, Moyes will be another casualty on Wearside.