Sunderland’s daunting run of festive fixtures should be a cause for optimism given the topsy-turvy nature of the Premier League, insists Billy Jones.
Sam Allardyce sets his squad a points target every eight games and while defeat to Watford meant Sunderland came up short, Jones believes December is a good chance to put that right – even with trips to Chelsea and Manchester City, plus a home game against Liverpoolto come.
“Because of the start we’ve had to the season, every game is massive,” Jones said.
“We want to get out of the relegation zone and we do that in eight-game phases with the gaffer.
“Saturday was the eighth game and we wanted to hit our targets to at least draw.
“We feel we at least deserved a draw with the chances we created towards the end.
“The next phase is going to be tough. We knew that when the fixtures were announced.
“You always tend to look around Christmas and New Year and we know we’ve got a tough run. But also within that run, we’ve got back-to-back home games with a Wednesday-Saturday.
“We know that if we defend well, first and foremost, and get that clean sheet, then we’ve got a chance of winning the games.
“Everyone is beating everyone in the Premier League at this moment in time.”
Sunderland had been enjoying a mini revival under Allardyce, with back-to-back wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke City.
But consecutive defeats to title-chasing Arsenal and then Watford has dented confidence levels heading into the annual festivities.
Against Watford, Allardyce quickly realised his 5-4-1 formation wasn’t working and just 19 minutes in, DeAndre Yedlin was hooked and Jones moved from his central position to right-back.
The performance improved, but Sunderland couldn’t find an equaliser despite several late efforts.
Jones, though, is adamant the Black Cats have the right man in charge to see off relegation this season, pointing to Allardyce’s tactical nous as reasons for optimism.
“The change of system shows what a good gaffer we’ve got,” added Jones.
“He’s not scared to make those big decisions to get a foothold in the game. That’s why he’s rated as such a great manager.”