The David Moyes summer signings starting to prove their worth at Sunderland
When David Moyes took charge at the end of July, he had less than six weeks to reshape his Sunderland squad before the summer transfer window closed.
That may sound a fair bit of time but when you also have to assess your new squad, oversee two pre-season tours and prepare for the new Premier campaign, it isn’t.
By the time the window had closed, Moyes had signed 10 players, seven on permanent and three loans. Sunderland couldn’t have endured a more miserable start to the campaign, with the Black Cats going 10 league games without a win.
While Moyes always retained the full support of owner Ellis Short and chief executive Martin Bain, pressure was growing on Sunderland and the focus was on the new players brought in.
Fast forward two months and there has been a mammoth sea change on Wearside after a recent revival. Homegrown Jordan Pickford and top scorer Jermain Defoe have been the stand-out performers but the club’s summer signings are now proving their worth.
Papy Djilobodji: Much-maligned after his first few appearances, the Senegal international looked nervous and lacking in concentration.
Against Watford he produced his best display, with the extra defensive sessions Moyes and his coaching staff have been holding paying off.
Sunderland paid £8million for Djilobodji, unproven at Premier level. In recent games he has looked every inch a top flight defender.
Jason Denayer: With central midfield hit hard by injuries, the Manchester City loanee has come into his own in the holding role.
Quick, tenacious, good at reading the play and strong defensively, Denayer has been a key player recently.
Steven Pienaar: The 34-year-old South African had nothing to prove when he arrived on a free transfer, given his lengthy career.
But some questioned how much of an impact he would have. When fit, Pienaar has played an influential role, best at keeping possession and keeping Sunderland moving.
Victor Anichebe: One of – if not THE – main reason behind Sunderland’s upturn. Unlike Pienaar, Anichebe did have something to prove.
His goalscoring record has never been his strong point. But his strength, hold-up play, workrate and powerful performances have.
Brilliant with his back to goal, his link-up play with Patrick van Aanholt down the left-flank is a key weapon.
Getting him fit and keeping him fit was key. The Sunderland backroom staff deserve credit along with the player himself and his form has been superb. A big plus for Moyes.
Didier Ndong: The jury is still out on the club’s record signing. Sunderland shelled out £13.6million.
It is worth remembering the Gabon international is only 22 and doesn’t have a wealth of experience after only a couple of years in France. What he does offer is workrate, energy, breaking up attacks and working hard defensively.
A big improvement is needed, however, when it comes to his passing and decision-making.
Elsewhere, Man United loanee Adnan Januzaj has shown flashes in the last two games that the penny has finally dropped.
The Belgian has been much improved but still looks to have another two gear changes in him.
Of the other signings, Javier Manquillo has been steady if not spectacular in the nine games he has featured in while fellow right-back Donald Love produced his best display against Watford. The former Manchester United youngster is one for the future but the current injury list means Moyes needs him now – and he hasn’t let anybody down.
Versatile Paddy McNair was just beginning to come into his own before a season-ending cruciate knee injury brought a premature end to McNair’s 2016-17 campaign.
Hands-on Moyes works the players hard at the club’s Academy of Light base. There have been big signs of improvement in terms or results and performances.
All looked lost at the end of October but Moyes’ summer signings are now proving their worth and helping spearhead the survival charge.