SEB LARSSON says Sunderland’s under-performing players must solve the burden of their league position themselves.
The Wearsiders head into back-to-back home games against Chelsea and Reading lying just one point and one place above the Premier League relegation zone after only two victories in their opening 14 games.
Swedish midfielder Larsson admits Sunderland didn’t expect to be in such a precarious situation after spending more than £20million during the summer on big-money buys Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson.
But while scrutiny has inevitably fallen upon manager Martin O’Neill, Larsson insists it is the players who must harness the blame and realise the onus is on them to move the Black Cats away from the bottom three.
Larsson told the Echo: “If you look at the squad, we shouldn’t be in this situation we’re in.
“But then you’ve got to realise we are and take responsibility for that and make sure we get out of it.
“It’s us the players who are out there. We can’t look at anyone else, we’ve got to sort it out.
“We’ve got to show we are that team that people expected us to be. We know we can, but saying it is one thing.
“We need to kick it into gear, it’s as simple as that.
“I don’t think anyone will stand up and say it’s been a good start.
“We wanted to kick on this season, but we have had this disappointing start.
“We can’t change things now. We understand the frustration among the fans. But we’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Sunderland have flopped against bottom-five peers Aston Villa and QPR in two of their last three outings at the Stadium of Light.
Larsson hopes reduced expectations tomorrow – despite visitors Chelsea’s seven-game winless league run – can work in Sunderland’s favour.
But he knows that consistency is Sunderland’s biggest problem, typified last weekend with a dreadful opening 45 minutes at Norwich, followed by a stirring second-half display.
“We’ve had games where people felt we would pick up wins and we haven’t,” added the 27-year-old.
“We’re coming up against one of the top teams now, so who knows? It might be good for us.
“It’s a funny situation for Chelsea, but ours is the only one we can worry about.
“We know we have to reach the second-half level against Norwich on a much more consistent basis.
“I don’t think that performance was anything out of the ordinary, we just played the way we should play in the game with that freedom.
“I know there’s pressure in the Premier League, but you have to put that to one side.
“Listen, every game now is very important no matter who it’s against.
“We need points, nothing else.”