Gus Poyet has ordered his Sunderland team to be out of the bottom three by Christmas – as he sets them a target of winning every other game between now and the end of the season.
The Black Cats boss wants his team to secure another 12 wins to extricate themselves from relegation trouble and is satisfied with their current form, which has reaped six points from a possible twelve. But he has noticed a tendency to speak as if January and the prospect of recruitment in the New Year will cure the club’s ills.
On the contrary, Poyet reckons the Black Cats cannot afford to keep dropping points away from home and has attempted to inject a sense of urgency into their situation by telling the team to target 17th by Christmas day.
Sunderland take on Aston Villa today before facing back-to-back home games with Chelsea and Tottenham. West Ham and Norwich provide more gentle fixtures in the run up to the festive period but it is a stiff test for Sunderland to have improved so steeply.
“I would love (to be out of the bottom three), yes. But we need to win games before Christmas and we cannot wait until Christmas,” he said.
“(Everyone is saying to me) it is a different league in January, with a new team and you play completely differently. No – I don’t see that. We have important games now and we need to make sure we are winning one in every two games. We need to be adding points to the table and this is another opportunity.”
The Christmas period could bring potential salvation to Wearside, with Poyet sure that they can accrue enough points from tough games to propel them towards safety.
“December is either very good or very bad. I have been in teams who have been very good over Christmas and it makes a big difference.
“You can go boom and go seven or eights points up on the rest and nobody can see it coming. It could be good, so let’s see if we can do it.”
With only Carlos Cuellar ruled out through injury, Poyet has selection decisions to make as he embarks on a battle to claw 40 points.
He said: “I need to win 12 or 13 games to get to 40 points. Where are you going to get it? You have to win here and now. We need ten or 11 wins and I don’t care where we get bit from.
“It would be great if I got it from the bottom six all the time but great, I don’t care where it comes from. We have got this game and we need to change our results away from home. In terms of form we are getting better, but we need results.”