Hard graft on the training ground the key to Sunderland improvement, says keeper Vito Mannone

Vito Mannone says Sunderland's improved performance against Tottenham Hotspur owed much to the work put in on the training ground.

Thursday, 2nd February 2017, 7:00 am
Vito Mannone

The Black Cats had 10 days to regroup after the 2-0 defeat at West Brom, a dire performance that continued a dismal run of form, including losses to Burnley and Stoke City.

Keeper Mannone hopes that the new arrivals at the club can help build some momentum.

He said: “We had time to regroup, time to put into training. When you play every three days you just recover to play the next one, you don’t have time to talk, regroup, to have some defending and attacking training, to find a way to play better because it wasn’t working.

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“We were more organised (against Spurs), and hopefully with the injection of new players, it can help us going forward.

“It’s a good point, it needs to be the first of many.”

Noticeable about Sunderland’s display was the much-improved balance of the 5-3-2, even if the Black Cats were pushed deep into their own half in the second half.

Crucially, too, the body language was much improved, none of the on-field tension and terse words exchanged that had littered previous weeks. The team dug in when the pressure was on and were rewarded with a rare clean sheet.

Italian Mannone believes that has been the key to previous escapes and says that the team’s experienced campaigners will lead the way in the coming months.

He said: “That’s the real secret of survival, I think. First is not fighting ourselves, on the pitch, like Tuesday. We covered one another, we were all going in the same direction and maintained our organisation.

“But you can’t just do it against Liverpool and Tottenham at home, because they’re top clubs because you expect to defend and you’re the underdogs, and then not do it against Palace, West Brom, teams like that.

“You have to do it again and again, you need to be focused on every ball and if you try to maintain a clean sheet, that’s your base.

“We’ve got the scorers so we need to believe in ourselves. It’s important to have these [experienced] people in the team , to drag the ones who’ve never been in a relegation fight.

“We’ve been, we’ve done it. it’s unfortunate it’s the same again. We need to change something, but we’re in it and we can do it.”