Sunderland boss pinpoints what went so wrong for Black Cats at Burnley
Disorganised, dishevelled, comfortably beaten one day; competitive, steely and impressive just 48 hours later.
It was a remarkable New Year period for Sunderland, who went from the shame of the Turf Moor hammering to landing an impressive point against Jurgen Klopp’s vibrant Liverpool.
It has been the story of the season, steps forward undermined by poor displays.
Things have slowly but surely improved over the last two months, and while David Moyes admits the last two displays were completely unrecognisable, he has at least pinpointed one key issue and thinks that things are improving ‘in the main’.
His side were relentless in their pressing against Liverpool in Monday’s 2-2 draw, pushing their opponents back at times, while his forwards were diligent in tracking back and putting in the hard yards.
The Scot says there is no coincidence that a more energetic display delivered such a different result.
He said: “When you look at what they produced at Burnley, you’d say there’s no way they can produce a performance against Liverpool like they did do.
“A big part of it was energy, I know for a fact that our energy levels at Burnley were terrible, our output was terrible.
“I know that our output against Liverpool was very good – the players tried to get up to the levels that they know they have to get up to.
“There is a correlation between how hard they’re working and getting results. The games we don’t do that are the game were not getting results in.”
The challenge will be to match that energy with an improvement in concentration and consistency at the back.
Moyes admits that despite the lift from the Liverpool draw, he is still ‘smarting’ from the hapless defensive display that allowed Andre Gray to so easily plunder a hat-trick at Turf Moor.
The midfield are crucial to that, too, says the Sunderland boss, challenging the likes of Jack Rodwell to back up their strong performances in the Liverpool game.
Of course, summing up a season of frustration with player availability, Didier Ndong has left for the Africa Cup of Nations just days after delivering arguably his most impressive display in a Sunderland shirt.
Moyes said: “It’s probably more so defensively and midfield wise [a lack of consistency].
“Can Jermain can miss a couple of chances one day, of course he can, and it doesn’t get shown up as much as; does Papy make a couple of awful rickets against Burnley and we get shown up, yeah.
“So where your real reliability needs to come is defensively. At the moment, we’re not sure what we’re going to get [defensively], and with Kone being away it makes it difficult , we’re short of centre-halves.
“Our midfield players have not been reliable in how they’ve played, you couldn’t say there’s been a consistent level from them.”