Sebastian Coates admits Sunderland are currently a shadow of the side which showed such grit to beat the drop last season.
During Dick Advocaat’s nine-game tenure in the Spring, Sunderland’s dogged determination saw them register a 12-point haul which proved sufficient to secure Premier League survival.
We need to get back to working as a team on the pitch. We’ve not had that in these first two games.Sebastian Coates
But that tenacity and commitment has completely disappeared in the opening two games this time around, with Sunderland swatted aside by two of the sides expected to be fighting around them in the bottom half of the table at the end of the campaign.
Head coach Advocaat even resorted to holding an emergency team meeting with his players at the Academy of Light yesterday, in a bid to understand why Sunderland are lacking intensity.
Centre-half Coates told the Echo: “Maybe the problem is that we have lost the determination that we had at the end of last season.
“We need to get back to working as a team on the pitch.
“We’ve not had that in these first two games.
“We haven’t stayed at the level that we can.
“We didn’t expect that performance against Norwich in the week.
“We thought we could win the game and change the mentality from the first game.
“But we didn’t do that.
“We work hard in training every day and push ourselves, but sometimes you have a bad day. We need to keep working, to focus on the games and to keep training hard, so we can get a result.”
Coates, who converted his loan move from Liverpool into a permanent switch during the summer, has been partnered with new signing Younes Kaboul in the opening two games after Dick Advocaat opted to leave out club captain John O’Shea.
But there have been few signs of cohesion from that new-look double-act.
Sunderland have shipped seven goals, with Norwich – like Leicester – profiting from some alarmingly soft defending to register their first points of the season.
“John and Kaboul are both great players,” said the Uruguayan.
“Maybe we haven’t played well so far and we know that.
“But we need to keep working, and maybe in the next game we’ll play well and win. That’s football.
“Whatever the team is, if the opposition scores, it’s hard to take as a defender.
“You always want a clean sheet.
“But you concede and score goals as a team. If we concede a goal, it’s not just the defence to blame and if we don’t score, it’s not just the strikers to blame.”
The manner of the two defeats at the start of the season have understandably prompted a fierce backlash from supporters who have grown pig-sick of the annual relegation battles.
Fans flooded to the exits after Norwich’s third goal on Saturday, while there was chanting against owner Ellis Short for the first time during the American’s seven-year tenure.
But given the manner of Sunderland’s performances, Coates understands why there was such frustration from yet another 40,000-plus crowd.
“They are supporters who want to win like us,” added the 24-year-old.
“We need to show them and ourselves that we can be focused during the match and win games.
“I don’t care if it’s Norwich or Swansea (this Saturday’s opponents) we need to be focused on playing better.”