Sam Allardyce has warned his players that Sunderland will be relegated if they fail to register a clean sheet before the end of the season.
The Premier League’s joint leakiest defence has failed to register a shut-out in the last 12 top flight encounters – a sequence stretching back to November’s win over Stoke City.
Sunderland boss Allardyce has repeatedly bemoaned the lack of clean sheets over recent weeks, with the Black Cats failing to prevent the opposition scoring on just three occasions during his tenure.
But with today’s clash at West Ham the first of the final dozen games for Sunderland, Allardyce has made his fears clear over Sunderland’s fate, if they fail to rediscover the knack of securing clean sheets.
Allardyce said: “There’s only one area that I’m insisting that the players get better at and that’s clean sheets.
“It is the most important thing that they have to achieve.
“I think we’ve got enough in the tank to win games.
“If we’re at 0-0 in a game, we have the capabilities to win that game 1-0.
“But if we go the last 12 games without a clean sheet, then we’re probably going to get relegated.”
Sunderland have not struggled as significantly at the other end of the field, with Allardyce’s men the top scorers among the current bottom eight.
But with Sunderland potentially requiring a further five wins to secure their Premier League status, Allardyce realises it’s an uphill challenge to score twice to rubber-stamp each victory.
“We’ll need to constantly score two goals to win a game and you’re not going to be able to do that regularly with the position we’re in,” he added.
“We had 21 attempts against Man United, which is a record for me and probably a record for Sunderland.
“But still, we only scored two off two free-kicks.
“It shows that keeping those clean sheets gives us the chance to score that one goal which is enough to get us three points.”