David Moyes has said that his Sunderland side are simply not doing the basics well enough to suceed in the Premier League.
The Black Cats were again beaten on Saturday, first-half goals from Darren Fletcher and Chris Brunt enough to settle the contest at the Hawthorns.
It was a case of same old story for the Sunderland boss, again left to bemoan poor defensive efforts undermining any attempt to take something from the game.
The Black Cats have now taken just four points since beating Leicester City on December 3 last year, a period which has also seen them dumped out of the FA Cup by Burnley.
With Tottenham Hotspur next up in the Premier League, Moyes faces a major challenge to turn around what has become a desperate run of form.
He said: “I would say this is a tough period.
“Obviously the situation we are in is disappointing but I think you have to keep doing the basics well. If you were being fair you would say the basics are not what we are doing well.
“The basics on the pitch are making sure you block shots, do all those things and be in the correct position in the first place, all those sort of things. I just don’t think we are doing the basics well enough.”
For what is far from the first time season, the goals conceded were clearly preventable, sweet strikes so they were.
The first goal saw Sunderland lose a header on the edge of their own area, before scuffing two opportunities to clear the corner. Then, Patrick van Aanholt stepped away from Fletcher, allowing the Scot to take a touch, turn and volley home from inside the Sunderland box.
The second was a catalogue of errors, Matt Phillips finding it all too easy to beat both Papy Djilibodji and John O’Shea. His low cross was palmed into a dangerous area by Vito Mannone, and the Black Cats looked to have been fortunate when Nacer Chadli smashed his close-range effort off the bar.
Left-back Chris Brunt had advanced to the edge of the area untracked, however, and fired into the top corner.
Yet for all the frustration, injuries and international call-ups mean Moyes has had precious few options to change his pack and try to provoke a reaction.
On Saturday, there were just two changes from the side turned over by Burnley in midweek, John O’Shea and Jack Rodwell replacing Fabio Borini and Donald Love.
Moyes hailed the influence of George Honeyman, who has emerged as a genuine first team contender, but bemoaned not being able to mix it up more emphatically.
He said: “New faces do help, for us competition is important but we are a bit limited in terms of what we can do. People can probably make mistakes for us and be in the team next week because of where we are at.
“But that is partly to do with injuries and partly to do with people being away.
“We could do with more competition if we can get it. But if nothing else, George Honeyman has come in and done as well as anybody.
“I think we will work hard to get people in. As I said earlier, we are not that far away and it might sometimes need something to spark it and I will try and find it.”
The difficulties are far from unexpected for Moyes, who had identified this period as a potentially trying one for his side.
He said: “I said in the press conference that January looked tough for us because all the games at Christmas and New Year and then coming out of it we had to send boys away. Knowing there wasn’t many coming back in the short-term I knew we would have roughly the same group of players for most of the games in January.
“But hey we have been here before and hopefully we can get away from it.
“We went on a good run round about November time so we need to try and do it again.”