Sam Allardyce has stopped lecturing his players about clean sheets, to prevent a complex building about Sunderland’s biggest deficiency.
Sunderland head into tomorrow’s visit of West Brom looking to an end an awful run of 16 games without a shut-out, which has been a principal reason behind the Black Cats falling back into the relegation zone.
Allardyce has struggled to contain his frustration at Sunderland’s inability to prevent the opposition finding the net, particularly after shipping late equalisers in their last two games against Southampton and Newcastle.
But while he continues to work on Sunderland’s defensive shortcomings on the training ground, Allardyce has become wary of continually discussing the issue with his squad.
“We don’t do it very well and it’s been very disappointing for me as a coach that the players have not achieved the clean sheets that they should have done,” said Allardyce.
“It doesn’t stop me continuing to work on it, particularly on the training ground.
“Perhaps we’re not mentioning it quite as much because you can get paranoid about it.
“But we worked on defending correctly again on the training ground yesterday, so in the end, I hope we get enough clean sheets in the last eight games to help us achieve the wins that we need.
“We can certainly score a goal, but the way we’re playing at the moment, it’s two minimum to win a game.”
Tomorrow marks the first of the final eight games of the campaign, with Allardyce believing that Sunderland need to record four wins from that run to secure their Premier League status.
And while, on paper, the Baggies clash is the most inviting of Sunderland’s remaining home games, it will also be a pivotal afternoon for the Black Cats’ relegation rivals, with Newcastle and Norwich meeting at Carrow Road.
“The most important thing for us is just to beat West Brom,” added Allardyce.
“Three points for us would get us closer to the 38 point mark which is what we all have to strive to achieve - and beyond that if we can.
“I don’t think there’ll be too many goals in the game tomorrow, but hopefully we come out with the victory because we’re so desperate for it.
“I think our performances deserve it, but our own deficiencies have let us down at small times in games.”