Gus Poyet has challenged his Sunderland stars to prove he need only dip into the January transfer market.
The Black Cats boss has confirmed he will be handed the resources by owner Ellis Short to adjust his squad in an attempt to stave off the threat of relegation.
The club signed 14 senior players during the summer, largely at the behest of director of football Roberto De Fanti and chief scout Valentino Angeloni.
Paolo Di Canio was unable to fashion the hand dealt him into a winning one.
Yet while Sunderland’s fortunes have improved since Poyet replaced the Italian in October, they remain rooted in the Premier League relegation zone.
The Uruguayan is cautiously optimistic about his side’s recent progress.
But he knows some tinkering is needed if the Wearside outfit is to avoid the drop, with goalscoring high on his list of concerns.
He admits Sunderland may require as many as five new players when the transfer window opens on January 1.
But throwing down the gauntlet to his current players, Poyet would prefer they demonstrate sufficient improvement over the next, hectic four weeks to negate the need for sweeping change, and limit his January business to a mere couple of additions.
“We are making progress but I don’t know how long it will take, you need time,” said Poyet.
“If I had not seen what I saw on Saturday I would be more worried. The way we trained and planned the game, there were encouraging signs.
“When you are coming close to January you are thinking what you need to do. The more the team improves the fewer changes you will see.
“There is a limit. I cannot go until December 28 waiting to see positive signs. So the next few weeks are important, deciding if we need two new players or five.
“It is nice to see that certain things we have worked on have sunk in. There is a way I like to play and the players are taking it on board.
“The question is ‘Can we maintain it and get better?’. Because we have done nothing yet.
“The next few games we need consistent improvement. It is not good making progress one game then relaxing and sitting back.
“Be solid and consistent, and scoring. Can we score? From two yards? Can we take better chances? I hope we improve that as well. So I have an idea of what I want to do in January, but there is time for that to change.
“It is not like I am not going to bring anyone in, I will. But depending on the next two or three weeks it could change the number (of transfers) I make.
“If we don’t keep improving we need a bigger shake-up. It is a way of saying ‘It depends on the player’.”
Meanwhile, Poyet insists tonight’s Premier League game at home to his former club Chelsea is among the biggest of his fledgling managerial career.
The Black Cats boss’ only previous dug-out experience – at Brighton & Hove Albion – was in the Championship and League One.
Thus far at Sunderland his highlights have been victory in the Wear-Tyne derby, and a surprise 1-0 home win over Manchester City last month.
And Poyet is relishing the opportunity to pit his wits against another of the top-flight’s top dogs.
“I think it’s one of the biggest games, because you are at the highest level,” he admitted.
“That’s why you want to be in the Premier League, to take on the biggest rivals and the biggest managers, to see if you can do well and compete.
“It’s a nice feeling, so hopefully we can win. We’re improving, we’re getting better.
“I’m starting to see things during the games, the way I want us to play, either with the ball or defending.
“The players are embracing what we’re trying to do. If we keep improving, it’s the only way to get out of the relegation zone.
“We need to make sure that we win 10 or 11 games. That’s the aim, it doesn’t matter who against.”