SAFC Analysis: Black Cats need a wonder window as injuries build up for manager Moyes

Boos ringing out around the Stadium of Light was not how David Moyes envisaged his home debut would go.

Monday, 22nd August 2016, 1:26 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd August 2016, 2:29 pm

But that was the scenario at half-time, with Sunderland fans growing increasingly concerned about another season of struggle facing them.

Moyes problems are mounting by the day.

The last thing a patched-up, threadbare, injury-ravaged team needed was another injury – especially at the heart of defence.

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The sight of John O’Shea heading off midway through the first half with a groin injury was a major blow, with Moyes no doubt wondering where the next sucker-punch was coming from.

A double from Cristhian Stuani – the first, very much against the run of play – had left Sunderland reeling at the break, and while they rallied in the second half, Boro proved too resilient to break down.

It leaves Moyes with an increasing To-Do list before the end of the transfer window, which closes in just 10 days.

The squad was in need of new recruits before the season had started, but, two games in, Sunderland are pointless and facing another 10-month battle against the drop.

Perhaps it is too early to make such assessments, with the season just in its infancy.

But with Hull City already on six points, Sunderland are already playing catch-up before August is even out. Moyes said as much himself post-match.

The team that has started this season is considerably weaker than the one that ended the last one away at Watford – a carefree afternoon in the sunshine that promised a brighter future.

Fans are still waiting.

And growing increasingly impatient. Moyes is fully aware of the limits within his current squad, work is ongoing around the clock to bring in new faces.

Sunderland can’t compete with their big-spending rivals, but there is no question reinforcements need to arrive fast.

The spine of the team has been decimated as a result of injuries and wantaway defenders.

Jan Kirchhoff and Lee Cattermole are injured, Younes Kaboul sold and Lamine Kone’s future increasingly uncertain after turning down a new contract.

Sunderland are missing Kaboul, Kirchhoff, Kone and Wahbi Khazri – who didn’t even make if off the bench against Boro – all key players in last year’s survival.

For all the problems facing Moyes, there were some positives.

They had plenty of possession but didn’t do enough with it – the final ball was either poor or non-existent.

The younger players – who Moyes has entrusted so much faith – did perform, with Lynden Gooch and Duncan Watmore helping drag Sunderland back into the game in the second half.

Gooch was really effective in a central role, breaking up play and pushing Sunderland on, while Donald Love was far more convincing at right-back.

Adnan Januzaj looked a real threat on his full debut for the club, causing George Friend no end of problems, with Papy Djilobodji strong on his full debut.

New signing Steven Pienaar ensured Sunderland used the ball more wisely after the break, which was far better, but the damage had already been done.

Sunderland dominated the opening 10 minutes, probing and pressing high, Middlesbrough were struggling to contain them never mind get the ball.

Januzaj had Friend on toast in the opening stages, twice he beat him with ease until poor passing let him down.

But for all Sunderland’s early dominance and youthful energy, Brad Guzan wasn’t tested.

They were made to pay 13 minutes in, Stuani’s stunning strike from 25 yards leaving Vito Mannone helpless in goal.

Boro could have added to their tally before Stuani converted from close range on the stroke of half-time.

Adam Forshaw won the ball, moved inside and played in Alvaro Negredo, who was played onside by Patrick van Aanholt.

He then turned Rodwell before rolling the ball across for Stuani to smash home.

Moyes brought Jeremain Lens on for Paddy McNair at the break, with Gooch moving into a more central role.

It worked, with Sunderland rallying after the break.

Defoe and Lens had penalty appeals turned down, while Guzan was finally forced into a fine, low save from van Aanholt.

Ben Gibson blocked Defoe’s close-range effort before Mannone quickly closed down Negredo before he could make it 3-0.

Sunderland got the goal their endeavour deserved, Defoe laying the ball off to Watmore, who saw his low shot palmed back into the danger area by Guzan.

Van Aanholt rushed onto the loose ball to half the deficit in 71 minutes.

Moments later, Sunderland were almost level, Guzan spilling Januzaj’s attempt before getting up to block Love’s rebounded effort.

Sunderland couldn’t build on their new-found momentum though, as Premier League new boys Boro expertly saw out the game.

The Sunderland boss has spoken regularly about his desire to get pace, energy and workrate in his starting line-up, something the younger players certainly offer.

But Sunderland lack experienced heads.

Lack of signings aside, the other factor hampering Sunderland is the growing injury list, with O’Shea joining the growing numbers inside a bursting physio room.

Kirchhoff, Cattermole, Seb Larsson, Billy Jones, Fabio Borini and now O’Shea are all out injured.

They are all experienced senior players, the majority of which would be in the first team.

It has left Moyes relying on a patched-up, youthful side.

Fans are having to place their faith in Moyes and the Sunderland board to bring in the signings this starting line-up – and squad – so desperately needs.

In the same way the January window was crucial to last season’s survival hopes, so are the next 10 days to this.

The clock is ticking.