The defensive frailties of Sunderland have been clear for all to see throughout the season, as the side have leaked in goals from the get go, making it the top priority of Sam Allardyce when joining the club to tighten things up at the back.
Things certainly looked to have improved at the weekend, despite them losing 1-0 to West Brom.
Offensively, Allardyce's men still looked to be struggling, only managing one effort on target throughout the 90 minutes but at the back his new side looked much more comfortable than they have in previous outings during this season, and it was an important step in the right direction as the club battle for survival.
Big Sam was happy with what he saw from his side despite the defeat, with the Black Cats making half time at 0-0 for only the second time this season it is clear that Allardyce has already begun cracking the whip on his men to get them ready for the battle to avoid the drop.
Fans will have shared the same feelings as their new manager who told the Sunderland Echo, "I have to be pleased with what I saw on the basis of first and foremost stopping goals going in the back of our net", the team worked hard on their defensive game from the strike force right through to the goal keeper, and the difference was crystal clear.
Allardyce had only worked with his new squad for a few days prior to his first game in charge, which makes the improvements even more impressive, "Thirteen players were away on international duty last week, and they only came back on Thursday.
Can't point the finger
Sunderland's defence was strong throughout the game, but not quite strong enough to ensure they walked away with any points, with Saido Berahino's goal earning the Baggies a 1-0 victory, but Allardyce was comforted by the fact he couldn't find anyone to blame for the goal, " We lost 1-0 and I can’t really point the finger at anybody to say ‘you’re the reason why they scored" said the manager.
Whilst Allardyce refused to blame any of his men, he certainly believed that someone was responsible for the goal, “It’s the referee’s mistake, but whoever’s mistake it was, it’s tough to take." The new gaffer believed that Berahino had fouled Sunderland goalkeepr, Costel Pantilimon before kicking the ball out of his hands to score, and was left frustrated that his side walked away with nothing to show for an improved performance.
For Sunderland their next test comes in the form of local rival and fellow strugglers Newcastle United, with both sides sitting within the relegation zone it could be one of the most important derby games in history, and the Black Cats will need to be at their very best defensively following Newcastle's impressive 6-2 victory over Norwich at the weekend.
Allardyce will be hoping that his squad can take their performance from the weekend into next weeks grudge match, and given that he will now have a full week to train and work with his players, he will be confident he can make the turnaround.