Cats Eye View: Khazri can be a shining star to help resurrect Sunderland

Wahbi Khazri shoots at goal against West Brom. Picture by Frank Reid
Wahbi Khazri shoots at goal against West Brom. Picture by Frank Reid
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Sunderland’s reserves of grit and determination can’t be in question – even if the same can’t be said of the quality count.

However, Wahbi Khazri may just about to tick the box in all those departments.

The 25-year-old came in from the cold against West Brom on Saturday to slip into the shoes of Adnan Januzaj, who was last week ruled out for some six weeks with ankle trouble.

Khazri has been out of favour in the opening weeks of the season, but Januzaj’s misfortune has proven fortunate for the Tunisian midfielder.

Boss David Moyes does not seem to have been over-enamoured by Khazri, with question marks over his fitness when he returned in the summer.

But on the basis of Saturday’s 90 minutes, once he attains match-sharpness, he could bring the star quality the Black Cats so desperately need in the weeks and months ahead.

The start was inauspicious, giving away the ball early doors just outside the visitors’ box, and he would go on to waste other bits of possession.

But the good would, over the course of 90 minutes, outweigh the bad.

It was encouraging to see set-pieces reach the danger area – after two corner driven into the near post, Wahbi went deeper with Darren Fletcher going close to an OG while Lamine Kone could not connect with another.

There was also one spectacular crossfield pass from right to left to find Duncan Watmore.

However, it was the second half which saw him to the fore for Sunderland when the side needed a spark to get back into the game, having fallen behind to Nacer Chadli’s 35th-minute goal.

Coming deeper, he tried getting Jermain Defoe away with low passes.

While neither came off, it noticeably lifted the January signing and he then showed his fight with good ball-winning tackles in the area of halfway.

Khazri’s determined 67th-minute run almost forced something and, four minutes later, he combined well with Patrick van Aanholt only for Defoe to have a shot blocked by Jonny Evans.

He drove forward again soon afterwards, but Watmore was unable to fashion anything in the box and then he almost got van Aanholt into he box but his pass was too strong.

Two minutes from the end of normal time, Defoe got him into space on the left of the box, but his shot was weak and rolled harmlessly to Ben Foster.

Having worked himself into the ground, he made way for Lynden Gooch.

In those last few lines there were numerous ‘almost’ moments, but, given that was his first Premier start and opening 90 minutes, there was enough to admire from Khazri.

Last season, there were vital goals and assists during Sunderland’s best times and once he finds the groove there is no reason why he can’t inspire some better times to the Stadium of Light. They are certainly needed.