To say that David Moyes has had a rocky start to his tenure at Sunderland is a bit of an understatement.
Eleven games into the season, the Black Cats have one win and five points. They’re rooted to the bottom of the table, along with Swansea, and they’re already six points from safety.
Teams can’t win the Premier League in September and October, but a slow start in those months can send them down the trap door.
Things would be even more dire if Sunderland hadn’t beaten Bournemouth in the last match before this international break. Moyes’ squad was the last in the top four divisions in England to claim a win this season, and the victory probably kept this from being a “why was he fired” story.
Moyes watched the match from the stands, where he was serving a one-match ban for abusing a fourth official. The goal scorers, Victor Anichebe and Jermain Defoe, were quick to defend their manager after the match.
“This is for the manager and fans, who are unbelievable,” Defoe said.
“He’s the one who has been getting the blame, even though we are the ones on the pitch,” Anichebe added.
The comments from the players, and the spirit shown in the match, bode well for the Scotsman.
Sunderland played the last 31 minutes with 10 men after Steven Pienaar drew his second yellow card. The Black Cats kept the pressure on, and Defoe’s goal from the spot in the 74th minute was the difference.
Make no mistake, the club is still in real danger of being relegated. But canning Moyes is not the answer.
He’s the 12th permanent manager at Sunderland since 2002, which tells us a little something about the stability of the club. He got a late start, replacing Sam Allardyce on July 23. That means he was playing catch-up in the transfer market.
That’s why he brought in players he knows, like Pienaar, Anichebe and Adnan Januzaj. It hasn’t come together for them, or him, yet on Wearside.
And he’s self-aware enough to know that he needs to get things going in the right direction.
“I think the club are aware that they don’t want to get in a situation of tossing and turning and changing managers all the time and that, at the moment, is helping me,” he said.
The question worth asking when considering firing a manager (or any coach in any sport, really) is this: Who’s better for the job, that we can hire right now?
As it has been for the past few years, staying in the EPL is job No. 1. Despite his recent struggles at Real Sociedad and Manchester United, Moyes knows how to get the most out of his players.
If anyone can keep this group of players in the top flight, it’s him.