Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe has admitted the club are in relegation trouble because they were simply not fit enough under former boss Dick Advocaat.
Advocaat, who engineered a third successive escape at the end of last season, departed just eight games into the new league campaign with the club having collected only three points.
Sunderland - now under the guidance of Sam Allardyce - remain inside the drop zone but their performances have improved dramatically.
Defoe said: “It’s happened because of the start of the season. We just weren’t good enough and we weren’t fit enough.
“If you look at the fitness stats now - the running stats and the high intensity stats, that side of it - we were so far off, so far off where we are now. Look at the [opening day] game against Leicester - we were blown away. It was difficult.
“Now it’s like a different team.
“The first thing the manager [Allardyce] said when he came in, we had a meeting and he said, ‘You’re not fit enough.’
“He said, ‘I’ll get you fit and that’s all you need’ because we’ve got top players and internationals.
“But if you can’t run, how are you meant to perform for 95 minutes?”
Meanwhile, the 33-year-old striker - who has 16 goals to his name this year - wants to hit the 20-goal mark this season.
He told the Echo: “He (Dick) said ‘I don’t think you can play up front on your own’. That’s why he decided to play me on the left.
“I don’t know, maybe I would have had 25 goals by now if I had been playing up front all the time!
The 2016 Rich List is out today and Sunderland AFC owner Ellis Short makes the list.
And finally, Sam Allardyce is holding his weekly press conference today ahead of the visit of Arsenal on Sunday afternoon (2.05pm kick-off).
Chris Young is at the Academy of Light for us.