Billy Jones admits Sunderland’s players are “embarrassed” by the quantity of goals shipped during the opening two months of the Premier League season.
Sunderland’s defensive fragility is the predominant reason for Dick Advocaat’s side propping up the Premier League table, with the Black Cats conceding an average of more than two goals per game.
No team has let-in more than Sunderland’s tally of 16 from just seven outings – nine more than at the same stage of last season – with the individual errors continuing in last weekend’s 3-0 defeat at Manchester United, despite what was an improved defensive display.
It’s a pattern which urgently needs to come to an end against West Ham on Saturday, as Sunderland search for both a maiden clean sheet and Premier League win.
“I think for the whole team as an XI, it would be massive to keep a clean sheet,” said right-back Jones.
“We’ve conceded far too many goals and we’re embarrassed by that and disappointed by that.
“But we’re striving to get more solid and get more clean sheets as a collective.
“Obviously when you’ve gone into a game and worked Monday to Friday to be solid and compact as a group, to then make individual mistakes is hard.
“Some goals haven’t just been down to that.
“But this league is so unforgiving. You make those mistakes and it usually ends with players scoring goals.
“We know what brought us success at the end of last year and it hasn’t been of the same standard.
“With losing games, it’s hard to remain confident.
“We need to get that win, put that to bed and move onwards and upwards.
“West Ham have got an amazing away record at this moment of time, but they’re beatable.”
While Jones struggled at the start of the season, left-back Patrick van Aanholt has continued to toil and was criticised by Advocaat for his role in United’s opening goal last weekend.
Van Aanholt remains the only specialist left-back in the Sunderland squad, but Advocaat has been pondering whether to switch right-backs Jones or DeAndre Yedlin to the opposite flank.
The ex-West Brom man would be happy to do that, although he admits he’s happier in his natural position.
“I’m a right-footed right-back whose more comfortable receiving the ball there,” he added.
“But like I’ve always said, if I need to play somewhere to help the team or manager, then I’m happy to do that.
“If I’m going to say what my strongest position is, I’d say it’s right-back and DeAndre would probably say the same.”