Sunderland’s creative players have to be smarter in order to get the best out of topscorer Jermain Defoe, says David Moyes.
The 34-year-old has hit four goals in 10 appearances so far this season but hasn’t found the back of the net in the past four games.
Moyes says his teammates have a “terrible habit” of too often trying to play long balls over the top.
Too many times this season, the former Spurs ace has been isolated up front and Moyes wants his side to get more players forward and be more creative in their passing.
Bottom-of-the-table Sunderland host Arsenal in tomorrow’s lunchtime game (kick-off 12.30pm) at the Stadium of Light, with the Black Cats without a win in nine Premier League games.
In order to get anything from the game, Sunderland will have to ensure they get the best possible service into Defoe.
“We’ve got a terrible habit of trying to hit Jermain all the time over the top, and it’s not good enough just to try to do that,” said Moyes.
“It’s not that we should never do that, just that it is not leading to enough goals for us.”
Arsenal, second in the league, are the second joint-top scorers this season with 19 goals while Sunderland are the lowest scorers with just six league goals to their name.
And Defoe has four of them after strikes at Manchester City, a penalty at Southampton and a brace against Crystal Palace.
The only other league scorer is Patrick van Aanholt, who has netted twice, and Moyes is demanding more creativity from his under-pressure Sunderland side – who have scored just once in the last four games.
“We have to keep believing and getting more people in the box,” added Moyes.
“We still seem to feel that all we can do is hit Jermain over the top with one ball, we don’t cross the ball enough, we don’t get enough people forward, we don’t pass the ball enough.
“We have to improve on all those things.
“Not one of them will be the difference, but only when we start to improve on them all.”
Sunderland head into the crunch Premier League clash with Arsene Wenger’s title-chasing Gunners on the back of the EFL Cup defeat at St Mary’s Stadium.
They were beaten 1-0 by Southampton in the fourth round of the competition thanks to Sofiane Boufal’s stunning 66th-minute winner.
Defoe started on the bench but came on as a second-half sub and saw a low drive from a tight angle saved, with Sunderland unable to find a way back into the game.