Tony Gillan: David Moyes subsitutions for Sunderland continue to amaze

The FA Cup is self evidently not a priority for any Premier League club.

Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 2:00 pm
David Moyes

Because of this, any team selection a manager makes in its early stages will be criticised.

Liverpool and Bournemouth might now regret making 10 and 11 changes respectively.

Hull City on the other hand, may regret playing their best side. They won, but Michael Dawson sustained a shoulder injury.

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Sunderland also named a virtually full strength side. Some fans wanted to protect players from injury, particularly Jermain Defoe, by not playing them. Others wanted to win the tie at the earliest opportunity.

Either opinion is valid and David Moyes chose the latter option.

The idea seemed better still after Monday’s draw because the winners should progress to the fifth round; there is no excuse for any Premier League side to lose to Bristol City or Fleetwood Town.

So Moyes wanted to beat Burnley. So far, fair enough.

However, it seems that at some stage in Saturday’s second half he changed his mind and decided that a goalless draw was what he coveted most.

The opportunity to contribute further to the ever-burgeoning list of injuries and suspensions, coupled with the glamour of Turf Moor in the middle of January, was just too good to pass up.

As Saturday’s thrill-athon progressed, the visitors’ share of possession increased.

By the 84th minute the home side were struggling; although this could be partly attributable to Burnley having three fresh players on the pitch to Sunderland’s none.

Sunderland desperately needed to show some incisiveness up front.

So they made their solitary change of the afternoon by introducing pacey young attacker John O’Shea.

What in the name of....?

Bringing on players too late or not at all (Crystal Palace, Burnley, Manchester United, Liverpool away), putting defenders into midfield when midfielders are available (Liverpool at home), introducing a full-back at centre-back when a centre-back was available (West Ham)...

Inviting more pressure by bringing on an extra defender when things were going perfectly well (Watford), not replacing players who are clearly exhausted until the 90th minute (Bournemouth)...

The manager’s substitutions have perplexed all season.

But bringing on O’Shea to play five at the back in a tie that needed for all concerned to be put out of its misery there and then, was the strangest of the lot.

A cartoon of the moment would feature a huge question mark floating gracefully above the stadium.

The worry is that Sunderland’s changes/non-changes will continue to bewilder and cost them games.

Let’s see what substitutions will occur against Stoke this weekend. Roll up, roll up. Prepare to be amazed.

We were on Saturday.