David Moyes has made it plain that Sunderland will be practically doomed to relegation unless his squad is strengthened significantly in January.
“I think we know we’re going to have to improve on what we’ve got to give ourselves a chance,” the manager said, following the 3-2 home defeat againstCrystal Palace on Saturday.
“Ultimately you have to have good players on the pitch and, at the moment, we’re not getting enough good players on the pitch. We need to get a better team, it’s as simple as that. We need to get a team which can give us results.”
This latest setback leaves Moyes with only one point from his first six Premier League games since succeeding Sam Allardyce, and Sunderland bottom of the table. “It’s been a tough period because I wanted to be successful,” Moyes said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be all easy, that’s for sure, but I did expect to find myself winning games. Now, though, we have to try and find a way to get out of it.”
Although Moyes acknowledges that a lack of adequate recruitment, not only this summer but in previous years, lies at heart of Sunderland’s problems, he is adamant that his existing players need to assume responsibility for the defensive negligence which, once again, cost them dear as they squandered a 2-0 lead against Palace. This, it seems, is absolutely not the time for tea and sympathy.
“I don’t know that I’m necessarily an arm-around-the-shoulder man,” Moyes said. “I want to see men stand up and take responsibility, be tough and take the challenge on. At the moment we’re not doing the basics well enough; not heading it and kicking it when we get the chance or doing the picking up and marking we need to do.
“The players need to take responsibility. It can’t always be me leading them by the hand and showing them where they should be and what they should do.”
Moyes – who has managed Everton, Manchester United and Real Sociedad – regarded Palace’s stoppage-time winning goal as a case in point, with an unmarked Christian Benteke heading home a free-kick. “Benteke’s arguably the best header of the ball in the Premier League and nobody got close,” he said. “We gave him a free run and jump.”
Despite Sunderland making eight summer signings, they failed to secure the striker Moyes craved to support Jermain Defoe, who scored twice against Palace; they also failed to re-sign Yann M’Vila, the former France midfielder who shone on Wearside last season while on loan from Rubin Kazan, and lost Younès Kaboul, a key defender, to Watford.
Before leaving to coach England in mid-July Allardyce had become deeply concerned by the lack of a single signing and Moyes was left playing catch-up. “We’re probably paying the price for not recruiting earlier,” the Scot said. “But what would you say about the year before that or the year before that? Would you say we’re paying the price for recruitment then or are there other reasons?”
Jan Kirchhoff shared his manager’s dismay. “A shocking result,” the former Bayern Munich midfielder said. “We led 2-0 but we didn’t all have the same idea about what to do next and we threw it away.
“As players we have to take 100% responsibility. We get well prepared before the games. It’s up to us to communicate on the pitch. We need leadership down there, people who are willing to take the lead. We have to get our shape back and have one clear idea of what we’re doing.”