Wahbi Khazri: A Curious Case for Sunderland Fans

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MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Sunderland's Wahbi Khazri in action during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Unlike Sam Allardyce last season, where he made Sunderland a difficult squad to beat, David Moyes has been unable to replicate the same results. Therefore, creativeness in the final third is a must, to give the Black Cats’ big hope Jermain Defoe the chance to score the key goals that give the team a fighting chance.

Sunderland are currently bottom of the Premier League and struggling for goals. It has many fans scratching their heads as to why attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri cannot get a place in the side.

Wahbi Khazri: A Curious Case for Sunderland Fans

Signed in January 2016 from Bordeaux to help Sunderland fight another relegation battle, Wahbi Khazri produced some very good displays to help his new team survive. Yes, the defensive side of his game needed to improve, especially when playing in the Premier League, but his attacking play caused the opposition problems.

This is something that too few in red and white have done this season. His goals, especially the rocket against Chelsea, and his attacking threat endeared him to the faithful on Wearside.

A brighter future?

When relegation was finally avoided last year, fans began to look forward to a new season with renewed hope. They had Allardyce at the helm, and if he could add several players during the summer to those brought in during January (Khazri, Jan Kirchhoff and Lamine Kòne) then maybe, just maybe, Sunderland could have a better season than they’d had in a long time.

With the likes of Khazri, Jermain Defoe, Fabio Borini and England U-21 international Duncan Watmore, the Black Cats faithful had optimism that their club had the basis of a good attacking team to work with. If they could make additions in key areas, then Sunderland could leave relegation battles behind them.

More uncertainty

Allardyce, however, left for England, and David Moyes came in. Unfortunately due to the amount of time it took for England to appoint their new man, it gave Moyes little time to get to know his new squad and to bring in quality players. One of the new men he needed to get to know quickly was Wahbi Khazri.

The Tunisian, known more for his craft than his graft, reportedly returned to pre-season training unfit and overweight. Not something that would go down well with his new manager, the no-nonsense Scot, David Moyes. The player was now playing catch-up and although he would eventually get back to the fitness levels required, Moyes has rarely used the player other than from the bench.

Injuries

It is no secret that Sunderland have struggled with injuries this season. Although this is not the main reason they have struggled, it has certainly not helped. Long-term injuries to the likes of Duncan Watmore, Victor Anichebe and Lynden Gooch, plus other forwards having spells on the sidelines, should have given Khazri the chance to prove to his new manager that he still has something to offer.

Moyes, however, has opted to use other players and youngsters with less creativity but are more workman-like. Teams need the workman type of player, but those that can create on a regular basis can be just as important.

Moyes has regularly played others ahead of the Tunisian. These include:

Fabio Borini – Although his work rate can be high, he has been out of sorts this season. Also looks low on confidence in front of goal.
Seb Larsson – Not the player he once was. The effort may still be there but the player, who is labelled as a set-piece expert, has rarely created.
Adnan Januzaj – A player with immense talent but even more of a luxury player than Khazri. Can make excellent runs to create, however, this is a once-a-game occurrence.
Steven Pienaar – Age is not on his side now and in the appearances he has made, this is evident.

African Cup of Nations

Khazri was part of the Tunisia side at the African Cup of Nations in January. He impressed with his direct style of play and dangerous set-pieces. He made ESPN’s best eleven of the group stage. If Moyes had little interest in playing Khazri, this could have been the ideal time to have at least recouped what was paid for him. Especially given the glowing reports coming out of the competition about him.

After impressing during the second half of last season and in this year’s African Cup of Nations, many feel the Tunisian should have be given more of a chance. As much as some others at least.

Speculation and rumours are rife in the region as to why Moyes is hesitant to use the player, but with him seemingly unlikely to change his mind about the player, and with Sunderland on the brink of relegation, fans may not see him in a red and white shirt for much longer.

However, Sunderland are still in with a chance of surviving, but are struggling to create and score. Would it be too much of a gamble to play a player who has proven himself for club and country? Maybe Wahbi Khazri can be the difference maker.

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