Dick Advocaat is looking for improvement across the board from Sunderland’s players, even if he believes their summer signings should make a difference.
Despite a 2-1 victory over MLS outfit Toronto FC, Advocaat was unhappy with his side’s display and let his players know as much in the dressing room afterwards.
But it’s difficult to explain after 12 days of training and travelling that it’s not easy.Dick Advocaat
Advocaat had been looking for Sunderland to produce a notable upturn in their performance levels after back-to-back friendly defeats in California.
But Sunderland still looked rusty and fell behind against Toronto, before Jermain Defoe’s brace inside four second half minutes saw the Black Cats emerge victorious.
The introduction of new signings Jeremain Lens, Younes Kaboul and Sebastian Coates should improve Sunderland, while Advocaat is also looking for another couple of fresh faces.
But Advocaat says those already on the books have to show more this season, even if he acknowledges it is difficult to judge Sunderland’s progress after a draining 12-day trip to North America.
Advocaat said: “It’s not only Lens and the new signings. It is all positions that have to improve.
“We did it last year in the final nine games with six unbeaten games, three wins, three draws.
“It’s the same group, with four different players who will improve the squad. That’s good.
“But it’s difficult to explain after 12 days of training and travelling that it’s not easy.
“Some players afterwards were really knackered.”
The big positive from the Toronto victory was Defoe’s brace against his former club, as the England international opened his pre-season account.
Defoe’s four goals proved pivotal to Sunderland’s survival last season and Advocaat believes finding the net will have boosted the 32-year-old’s confidence, even if it was a non-competitive encounter.
Advocaat added: “It’s good for Defoe, but for me, it’s important that the majority of the players are getting into the right shape.
“For him, it’s great to get the two goals. It’s good for his confidence.”