David Moyes insists his Sunderland side have not been risk averse, as they seek to score their first goal in six games at the King Power Stadium tonight.
The Black Cats have not found the net since Jermain Defoe scored the fourth on the stroke of half-time at Crystal Palace, with Moyes coming under fire for persisting with the out of sorts Fabio Borini and Adnan Januzaj.
The pair have just one Premier League goal between them all season, though Moyes has been limited due to injuries picked up by Victor Anichebe and Duncan Watmore. Fans have been left baffled by the reluctance to give Wahbi Khazri a chance from the start and the Sunderland boss did concede he understood that point of view.
He said: “I believe we have been taking risks, although maybe other people don’t see it that way.
“Ndong has probably played the majority of games this season, but the point about Khazri I can understand.
“But I also had Defoe, Januzaj and Borini on the pitch on Saturday, so we probably tried to put out as many attacking players as we could, with the exception of Wahbi who didn’t start the game.
“We’ve been trying to put out as many attacking players as we can to help us score goals.”
Jermain Defoe’s injury sustained during the 1-0 defeat to Watford is a concern and Moyes has said his team cannot fall into the trap of leaving goal scoring to the prolific 34-year-old.
Defoe failed to register a single shot at Vicarage Road as the players behind him struggled to make an impact on the game.
Moyes said: “It can’t just be about Jermain, Adnan’s got to contribute more, Fabio’s got to contribute more. It can’t just be about Jermain, the players behind them have to give better service throughout the team, as a group we need to try and make sure that we’re not just solely focused on Jermain and think about how we can get results as a team.
“I can see why [expect Defoe to score] because he is the one who has been doing it, but there’s no doubt that Jermain would hope Fabio, Adnan and the players around him would get the opportunities to score as well and take them.”
As well as pointing out that Didier Ndong has played most games this season, he reiterated his stances that set-pieces and the threat from Watford in those situations demanded a tailored selection.
The decision to exclude Ndong for the second game in succession was met with a fierce baclkash, especially after the midfielder impressed from the bench, driving forward and teeing up Januzaj for what should have been Sunderland’s equaliser.
Moyes pointed to the high number of dead-ball situations Sunderland had to defend early on when explaining his choice.
He said: “I felt that the game was suited for the change, I needed to have size, we had to be bigger, it was always going to be a struggle at set-pieces, I needed to get as big a side out because I knew that the game would probably come down to set-pieces and it did unfortunately. We had to deal with 8 or 9 corners in the opening 30 minutes.
“I think also we’re looking to see if there’s another solution out there for us, we tried to get our attacking players out on the pitch.”
Moyes also underlined the importance of the defensive side of the game despite his team’s struggles at the other end.
Sunderland have now conceded just one in their last two games, though they were indebted to Jordan Pickford for a number of excellent saves in both halves at Vicarage Road.
The Scot insists that staying in the game for as long as possible will be crucial if the Black Cats are to end their run of poor form and pull of a most unlikely Great Escape.
He said: “That’s what gives you a chance of winning – if you don’t concede many goals, you always have a chance of winning.
If it hadn’t been for that one set-piece at Watford, we’d have been right in the game to the end and maybe it would have been Watford who were getting more anxious as time went on.
“But once they got the goal they had something to hang on to, and we had to go chase it.
“We have been taking risks – they might not always have been noticeable, but we have been doing so.
We’ve been trying to get as many players as possible on the pitch who we think can help us score, while keeping the balance by not conceding at the other end.”