Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has admitted that his side must start picking up more clean sheets otherwise they will be relegated.
The Black Cats, 1.53 to go down this season, have not kept a clean sheet in their last 12 Premier League games, with their last coming back in November against Stoke City.
That run has kept them in the bottom three but they are just two points away from climbing above relegation rivals Norwich City.
Sunderland’s goal-scoring form has helped their chances of survival, with Jermain Defoe bagging 10 goals in 22 appearances in the Premier League.
However, Allardyce’s men have kept just three clean sheets since he joined the club and the former West Ham and Newcastle boss admits that record has to improve dramatically.
He told the Sunderland Echo: “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.”
Allardyce will be hoping January signings Lamine Kone and Jan Kirchoff can improve his side’s fortunes.
Sunderland face West Ham, Crystal Palace and Southampton in their next three league games.