Sam Allardyce has predicted survival for Sunderland, IF they can get close to their tally of 13 clean sheets from last season.
Sunderland registered only a second shut-out of the campaign in Monday night’s clash at Crystal Palace, and, as was the case in last month’s derby success, it earned the Black Cats all three points.
Last season, they stayed up with a team that hardly scored a goal, but they got 13 clean sheetsSam Allardyce
Last season, only five teams bettered Sunderland’s total of 13 clean sheets, with the Black Cats’ problems coming at the other end of the field, where they were the second lowest scorers in the division.
But after the summer recruitment of Jeremain Lens, Fabio Borini and Ola Toivonen, plus the rise of Duncan Watmore, Allardyce believes Sunderland boast a better goal threat this time around.
And if they can return to the kind of performances which saw them defensively resilient for much of last year, the Sunderland boss is confident of beating the drop.
Allardyce told the Echo: “We have to stop the goals going in.
“The only games we’ve won, we kept clean sheets.
“Last season, they stayed up with a team that hardly scored a goal, but they got 13 clean sheets.
“The two leading goalscorers were on five, which were Connor Wickham and Steven Fletcher.
“It was the 13 clean sheets which kept them up.
“I think we’ve got more goals this year. In fact, Steven Fletcher and Jermain Defoe have already scored four.
“If we sort the goals against out, we’ll stay up because there’s goals in the team.”
Allardyce’s decision to revert to the 5-3-2 set-up - which had seen Sunderland ship six goals at Everton when used for the first time earlier this month - paid off at Palace, with the hosts struggling to create any clear-cut opportunities.
The Sunderland boss will not necessarily persist with that formation for Saturday’s visit of Stoke City, although it presents the significant benefit of being able to field two strikers.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be like that all the time,” added Allardyce.
“I’ve got options to play a different way and a different system.
“But if we are to continue playing with two up top, then I don’t think it can be a 4-4-2. I think that’s already been proven.
“I liked the formation at Everton and the only reason it didn’t work was because of our frailties in defending when we are at 2-2 and went gung-ho for the winner.
“But hopefully we can turn the Palace win into another victory on Saturday. Two wins on the trot in this position is massive.”