Sunderland's selection didn't work against Stoke City... so what can David Moyes actually change at the moment?

The inquest into Sunderland's meek defeat to Stoke has been unsurprisingly wide-ranging and embittered.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 17th January 2017, 9:00 am
Could Billy Jones return at Turf Moor?
Could Billy Jones return at Turf Moor?

Selection, recruitment, substitutions and tactics have all come under the microscope.

The answer to what went wrong has to include a little bit of everything, but with two games in the space of five days and the injury crisis still not relenting, what can David Moyes actually change?

Here are some of his limited options...

Pick the kids

One of the most contentious aspects of Saturday’s defeat was the lack of substitutes used as the first XI floundered.

Moyes has been consistent on this issue in recent weeks, saying that he knows the youngsters on his bench well and did not see them making a bigger impact than the midfielders and forwards already on the field.

He would also likely point out that he has used youth this season, in the form of Pickford, Gooch, Watmore, Januzaj and Denayer.

Yet the Premier League situation has become so perilous that he may acknowledge this is one game too far for his struggling first choice XI.

He can’t afford any more injuries ahead of a daunting trip to the Hawthorns and so could ease the pressure on some of the players who have been pushed to their limits in recent weeks.

The likes of Joel Asoro and Josh Maja may not yet be ready to make a significant impression on the Premier League, but this game could be a good opportunity to take a closer look.

Many will say that there is little to lose.

Go to five at the back

Jason Denayer struggled in midfield on Saturday, giving the ball away on numerous occasions as he and Jack Rodwell were largely overpowered in midfield.

One option, which Moyes looked at earlier in the season, could be to go to a back five and play the Belgian as a third centre-back.

The differences between him playing there rather than as the midfield screen would be subtle, but potentially significant.

For one, he would add some much needed pace to the backline.

John O’Shea has not always had the legs to cover for Papy Djilobodji and Denayer showed in the last game between these two that he can be a valuable sweeper.

O’Shea and Djilobodji have not inspired a great amount of confidence as a partnership and another body in that crucial area of the pitch could help firm up Sunderland’s back line.

It wouldn’t necessarily be a defensive move, either.

Sunderland too often had no options on the ball and ended up punting it into the channels or straight at the Stoke defence.

Playing Van Aanholt as a wing-back could help him get right up the pitch and offer a much needed outlet.

His pace could do some harm without compromising the defence, as it has on occasions in the past.

Go to three in midfield

Another option that could be possible if Billy Jones is fit enough to take a place in the starting line-up.

Donald Love coped well with Burnley’s combative midfield just over a week ago and could return there tonight.

That could pave the way for Seb Larsson to move into a midfield trio and offer some much needed bite and energy in that department.

Playing Jones, or Javier Manquillo if Moyes wants to keep Jones for the trip to the Hawthorns, would also mean the Scot could rest one of Fabio Borini or Adnan Januzaj, who struggled at the weekend.

Whatever he chooses, it’ll take a major step up from a very similar group of players.