Sam Allardyce believes Sunderland require at least 38 points if they are to maintain their Premier League existence.
Even if Sunderland emerge triumphant from today’s basement battle with bottom side Aston Villa, the Black Cats will only be taking the first step on the road towards clawing back the seven-point gulf with the safety mark.
But while the Wearsiders – with only 12 points so far – and Villa have struggled to put points on the board, their relegation rivals have all managed to record unlikely wins against the Premier League’s heavyweights.
Allardyce believes that will have a knock-on effect on the tally required to beat the drop this season.
Traditionally, 40 points is seen as the magic number required for Premier League safety, yet a haul of that size hasn’t been needed since 2010-11.
In each of the last four seasons, no team has required more than 37 points to survive in the top flight, with 34 proving to be sufficient two years ago.
But Allardyce believes that this year – with no runaway sides at the top end of the table – Sunderland will need to least average a point per game to rubber-stamp their place in the Premier League.
He said: “I think we’ll need 38. We’ve got to get there.
“All the top boys are slipping up, so the points will go somewhere else.
“The top four or five are not achieving as many points as they normally do.
“Whether that effects the middle of the table, rather than the bottom, we’ll have to wait and see.
“But, certainly, by the end of February, beginning of March, we’ll have a better idea.”
Sunderland have registered a modest nine points from Allardyce’s 11 games at the helm, although that is still far better than the three banked during the opening eight encounters of the season.
But, despite such a poor return from the first half of the campaign, Allardyce still believes Sunderland are capable of reaching 38 points.
He said: “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we were capable of getting that. I might as well go home and pack my bags now!”