GUS Poyet says Sunderland will have to maintain the meanness they showed in defence against Manchester City if they are to get out of the relegation zone this season.
The Black Cats beat the title contenders 1-0 on Sunday after Phil Bardsley scored an opportunist goal and Sunderland defended for all they were worth to prevent the super-rich club getting an equaliser.
It was the Wearsiders’ first Premier League clean sheet of the season and Poyet says if the club is to prosper in the months ahead they have to continue that mean streak.
“To win the quantity of games we want to win this season, I think that defence is the key to it,” he said.
“Some people might say conceding a goal a game is OK – especially in comparison to many how we have done per game previously. They may even be right.
“But personally I think it is too many.
“I want to and I need to, see more clean sheets from the team.”
The patient passing game Poyet is instilling in his players, with the emphasis on ball retention, should help in that direction.
But the new head coach says Sunderland are still benefiting from the victory over Newcastle United, with the players boosted by the derby win being eager to buy into the new approach from the Uruguayan.
“Some might say it is something or nothing – one win like that,” mused Poyet. “But I can tell you, it was a lot. It was a key moment and I could see, straight after, the players already talking about key things we were trying to put into place in training.
“We as coaches were not having to say it, they were getting it, they were understanding how they could work better.
“I say players have to focus, to give their best every day, in every action, with every single ball and I have seen them wanting to do that in these last few weeks and if we keep on doing that we will see the benefits.”