Wise Men Say: Now it's all in our own hands to seal survival
Out of the bottom three. It may only be on goal difference but with the same amount of games played as Norwich and one less than Newcastle, a spirited 0-0 draw against Arsenal has put us in full control of the relegation battle.
It’s not going to be easy and it’ll be ridiculously tense, but at least we don’t have to rely on other teams results as much now.
With four games left, that’s certainly a position we’d have taken when Sam Allardyce first arrived on Wearside.
Getting ourselves into the position we now find ourselves in is deserved as well. Since the turn of the year we’ve, for the most part, played well and competed in every game.
The January transfer window gave us much needed strength and is certainly one of the key factors in us not being cut adrift, but some of the players that were already with the club have certainly stepped up.
Look no further than our centre-half pairing of Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul, who both played brilliantly against Arsenal and earned their third clean sheet in four games. The defence, finally looking settled, is yielding results and it’s giving us a solid platform to build on, which means we don’t have to score a couple of goals just to get a draw these days.
But it’s not just at the back where there’s cohesion for Sunderland.
The game against Arsenal was the third game running where Sam Allardyce has named an unchanged side and, barring any injuries, will probably make that four against Stoke. There are partnerships developing all over the field now, with the midfield three of Jan Kirchhoff, Lee Cattermole and Yann M’Vila now looking a threat going forward, as well as a good foil for the back four.
While his form may have dipped lately, M’Vila’s second-half performance was very pleasing as he pressed high up the pitch and made some tackles that put Arsenal under pressure.
His endeavour was there for all to see and, if he keeps that up for the rest of the season, along with Kirchhoff and Cattermole’s recent displays, we’ll keep on getting points.
The forwards may have drawn a blank, but Wahbi Khazri, Fabio Borini and Jermain Defoe certainly kept the Gunners defence on their toes. Khazri had his best game since the victory over Manchester United, a great reaction after being hooked after only 45 minutes last week, with his dazzling dribbling and persistent pressing which almost led to teeing up Defoe.
A good interception prevented Defoe getting a one on one with Petr Cech but he almost proved he didn’t need such a clear chance. A volley from a tight angle produced a good save from the keeper and a clever lob went agonisingly wide.
Hopefully against Stoke this weekend, he’ll get some joy as he’ll have more space to operate in.
The game at Stoke will see us take on a badly out-of-form side, who look like they’re either on the beach or making sure they don’t get injured ahead of the European Championships.
With the fight and commitment, coupled with the quality we’re showing at present, we can go into the next game with three points being a major possibility and there’s no reason why we can’t pull ourselves even further away from the red line.
It sounds simple, but we’re showing that we’re good enough to get out of this. I’ll try to think of it that way as a chew my fingernails to the bone on Saturday.
* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes