Sam Allardyce hopes defeat against Watford proves to be a “reality check” for his players at the size of the task facing Sunderland to preserve their Premier League existence.
Victory against the Hornets on Saturday would have left Sunderland averaging almost a point per game and marked a dramatic turnaround in the Black Cats’ fortunes since Allardyce took charge two months ago.
We’re getting better, but we’ve still got to get a lot better. It’s still not quite good enough.Sam Allardyce
But instead, second-bottom Sunderland are again staring down the barrel towards the Championship, with their upcoming encounters against Premier League heavyweights Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool potentially worsening their plight.
Despite the improvement in performances during his tenure, Allardyce says the 1-0 loss against the Hornets shows that Sunderland are still not up to scratch to secure top-flight survival.
“What’s happened has been a bit of a reality check,” said Allardyce. “We’re getting better, but we’ve still got to get a lot better. It’s still not quite good enough.
“When you’re playing against a Watford side who have surprised teams away from home this season with three wins and a draw, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“But, in the end, our shooting boots failed us again.
“Saturday was so, so big to win, because 15 points after 16 games would have left us just one point away from safety already.
“But now we’re playing catch-up again.
“Certainly, with the next games coming up, that was even more important to get the three points.
“It’s my job to drive these players and keep demanding from them, and not let them think we’re there until we’re mathematically safe.
“Hopefully that will be enough to pick up more points.”
Sunderland fell behind inside four minutes during a wretched start from the hosts, before spurning several opportunities to level proceedings – the second successive Saturday when the Black Cats were guilty of wastefulness in front of goal.
Allardyce believes there is a fragility around his players when they fall behind, with all three of Sunderland’s wins this season coming when they kept a clean sheet.
“When we go a goal behind, there seems to be an air of panic across the team,” he added.
“There’s an overeagerness that we’ve got to get a goal.
“But it only takes a second to score.
“There’s all that time to be patient, wait and play, until such time as you get a chance.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland are again keeping tabs on French striker Sebastien Haller after watching Utrecht’s Eredivisie clash against Ajax yesterday.
Haller – who has netted 10 goals in 14 outings in the Dutch league this season – was among Sunderland’s targets during the summer, but they were unwilling to meet Utrecht’s £6million asking price for the 6ft 2in 21-year-old.
Sunderland’s have been looking at possible January additions up front, with QPR’s Charlie Austin one of those under consideration.
But the Black Cats are also looking at central defensive options, with the lack of depth in that area again highlighted after Younes Kaboul missed the Watford defeat through illness.