David Moyes: Sunderland have to handle the weight of expectation better
David Moyes says his Sunderland side are struggling to deliver when expectation is on them to secure a Premier League win.
The 4-0 hammering of Crystal Palace last weekend, combined with a number of problems for Southampton, had raised hopes that the Black Cats could land a hugely significant win and lift themselves out of the bottom three on a weekend when their closest rivals faced difficult fixtures.
The Saints had lost their three previous fixtures prior to Sunderland’s game, struggling with the sale of Jose Fonte to West Ham and loss of Virgil van Dijk to injury.
Moyes had pointed to the 3-0 defeat away to Swansea in December as a warning, and his team proved his fears to be well-founded.
Asked about the expectation, said: “It’s probably when we’re winning and folk think that Sunderland are going to go and do it again. That’s the sort of expectation I’m talking about.
“We will go and win games, I’ve no doubt about that.
“When you’re off the back of a 4-0 win and folk are saying that Southampton haven’t done that well, that’s the sort of game, at the moment, when we don’t seem to be able to do it in.
“I’m more a little bit worried that when the expectation comes on, ‘you know, this is your game to win’. We’ve not been able to live up to that.
“You know, we’ve had a good result away from home. Come on, can we pick it up again? We’ve not really been able to do that. Again, (on Saturday), I was hoping to take some points.”
Moyes was also left bemoaning his side’s failure to test visiting keeper Fraser Forster. Sunderland saw plenty of the ball throughout the game but managed only one shot on target.
That was a tame effort from distance by Didier Ndong, a comfortable save for the England international.
Sunderland never really looked like staging a second-half comeback, their defensive lapses in the first half playing into the hands of Southampton’s excellent counter-attacking instincts.
Moyes said: “It was more disappointment because we couldn’t turn some decent stuff in the first 15-20 minutes into an opportunity or a goal, really.
“I think it was more disappointing (because) they had had one good chance before, it was a cross and came out to the edge of the box and the boy (Cedric) scuffed it high and wide.
“After that, they just grew into their game a little bit.
“We needed then to be able to defend as well as Southampton had defended for the opening 20 minutes, and we didn’t, albeit I think the first goal’s harsh on us in the end.
“I was disappointed that we couldn’t work the keeper. In our good 20 minutes, we threatened to create opportunities and chances, but we didn’t really get any and, in their bit, in the second part of the first half, when we were asked to defend a couple of times, we didn’t quite deal with it.”
Moyes insisted, however, that the Saints’ upcoming EFL Cup final was never likely to work in his side’s favour.
Some thought that the visitors could be off the boil for the visit to Wearside, their eye off the Premier League pace and instead on the prospect of facing Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United at Wembley on February 26.
But Moyes felt that would have worked as incentive for Claude Puel’s players, even if he didn’t see the 4-0 scoreline coming.
He said: “The result? No, because I saw that the players were in a really good mood, really buoyant, but I also knew that Southampton are probably, outwith the top four or five and Everton, one of the best footballing teams in the league, and I knew that if I was going to play in a cup final in my next game I’d want to play out of my skin to make sure the manager had no choice but to pick me, so I actually thought it was a really difficult game for us.”