David Moyes has said that Watford’s stature was the reason Didier Ndong was not selected for Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Watford.
The Sunderland boss insisted his side was attacking enough to win the game and reiterated the importance of keeping things tight at the other end.
The decision not to select Ndong was met with widespread bemusement when the teams were announced – the Gabon international impressed in his substitute appearance following Miguel Britos’s Watford winner.
Moyes said he is in contention to play against Leicester on Tuesday night and defended his midfield selection.
He said: “He was in contention, but we had to consider the size of Watford. We had to find a team which could give us players who could compete at set pieces or we might have been goals down before we got to 1-0 down.
“We just didn’t have enough stature in the team to deal with what Watford had.”
Moyes also pointed to his lack of attacking options as reason for the side picked.
He said: “First of all, if you can’t defend and keep them out, then there is no point in having attacking players on.
“You have got to be able to stop the goals going in.
“We have got to do that and gives ourselves a chance because there have been a lot of games this season where we haven’t. Recently, we have looked a little better defensively and, because of that, we are having to try and create more chances when we can.
“We are playing Fabio Borini, Adnan Januzaj, Jermain Defoe – we have probably only got one more attacking player in the squad that we have available. So you can’t turn around and say we are not having a go.”
The Black Cats boss also admitted his frustration that Manchester United loanee Januzaj has not been unable to produce more goals and assists this season.
Januzaj’s substitution for Wahbi Khazri was met with ironic cheers from the away end and Moyes said the 22-year-old must take his chance and do more.
He said: “He does need encouragement because he is a talent and all the players need confidence. But we are giving Adnan an opportunity and he has got to take it as well.
“I would be the first one to say that to him. He has got something that other players haven’t – he is able to hold the ball, take people on, able to create things which we don’t have in the team. Someone who can do that.
“Yes, he is a young player – you have to remember that – but he is a talented player.
“I have spoken to him many times. The best way to do it is to score goals and make goals and then it is much easier. I can think back to the Watford game (at home) and he helped make a goal there so I can think of two or three games. But it is not enough.”
Moyes felt that Watford always had the edge over Sunderland at dead ball situations but felt the game was relatively even elsewhere.
He underlined the importance of keeping things tight at the other end in order to allow Jermain Defoe to settle games at the other end.
The 34-year-old was starved of service in the second half as the Black Cats struggled to test Heurelho Gomes in the Watford goal.
Moyes said: “If we can stay in games with clean sheets, we will always have a chance of winning. Especially with the centre-forward we have got. And you can say (on Saturday) that is the way it looked like.
“I actually think we lost it, maybe not a game where we didn’t look like doing much, maybe nick a goal and go away with three points. I didn’t think there was much in it.
“They were at home and their better league position shows why they were there.
“The league is very tight and it fell to one set-piece. And we didn’t look as much as a threat at set-pieces as they did, because of their stature.
“It was something we couldn’t score through that either.”