GUS Poyet wants Sunderland to excel against their relegation rivals in the second half of the 2013-14 season – starting with Aston Villa today.
The Black Cats have won only three Premier League games this season, all against sides in the top half of the division – Everton, Manchester City and Newcastle United.
In the Capital One Cup they have disposed of top 10 sides Southampton and Chelsea.
But the best they have been able to manage against their fellow strugglers have been draws with Villa, Norwich and Cardiff City while there have been ignominious defeats to Fulham, Crystal Palace and Hull
Poyet admitted: “I have no explanation for it – for why we beat the top teams and not the ones below them.
“I cannot speak about the games before I arrived, when Sunderland had a few games they would have hoped to have won at the start of the season, but it’s football.
“It’s the unexpected. It is something though that we are looking to change and I think we can do that in the New Year.”
Poyet believes the mentality and the character of the players has changed – something he saw evidence of in the gutsy victory at Everton and the refusal to give up at Cardiff City in Sunderland’s last two games.
And he says he will continue striving to cultivate the green shoots of recovery in the days and weeks ahead.
“We would not have got those last two performances out of the players when I first arrived at the club, so there’s no doubt that they are improving and getting confidence back,” he said.
“We’re trying to help that. We are trying different formations and different players in different games and sometimes it is working, sometimes it is not.
“The idea though is to plan well and give ourselves the best chance.
“You cannot account for how things are going to work out in a football game because anything can happen but if you plan well, and prepare well, you improve your chances.
“We need wins – any wins – but, yes, it would be nice to get wins against those teams around us at the bottom - it’s an area where we need to improve and hopefully we will.”