There was no shortage of reasons for Sunderland fans to criticise David Moyes.
But beyond the fact that he brought an end to their ten-year stay in the Premier League via depressing results and even worse football, beyond the downbeat attitude that appeared to foster a defeatist mentality from the get-go, Moyes omission of Sunderland’s one truly creative player was nothing short of mystifying.
Alongside fellow January signings Jan Kirchhoff and Lamine Kone, Wahbi Khazri played a major role in Sunderland’s great escape under Sam Allardyce in the 2015/16 season.
As The Guardian reports, the £9 million former Bordeaux winger made a real impact at the Stadium of Light, providing skill and vision in attack. Once the England job came calling for Allardyce, however, and Moyes arrived in his place, Khazri went from key player to forgotten Sunderland man.
The Tunisian started just seven Premier League games in 2016/17, despite Sunderland’s galling lack of cutting edge in the final third.
Moyes argued in April that Khazri had justified his long-awaited recall in a 2-2 draw with West Ham, in which he scored direct from a corner, but, by that point, Sunderland’s season was beyond repair.
So Moyes’ new employers, West Ham, should perhaps be wary that he will have the same blunting effect on the sharpest creative minds in their squad. How will the likes of Manuel Lanzini fare, for instance, if the Scot once again turns to the backs-against-the-wall, passive pragmatism that had Sunderland hanging on in the hope of a 0-0 every week?
Since Khazri left Sunderland for Rennes in the summer, he has looked sharp and creative once more, scoring twice in six Ligue 1 games. And if Moyes is to avoid alienating an already sceptical West Ham fanbase, he must avoid giving The Hammers’ most gifted players ‘the Khazri treatment’.
After all, omitting creative and stylish attacking players is hardly the 'West Ham way'