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Three things Sam Allardyce must do to keep Sunderland up

That appointment of Sam Allardyce all but guarantees safety for Sunderland seems to be the line coming from most football pundits following his arrival at the club.

His record certainly points to an increased chance of survival for the Black Cats and a more experienced Premier League manager is virtually impossible to come by.

Big Sam will also be the toast of Wearside after the club claimed another victory over arch rivals Newcastle last weekend.

Allardyce though, will be keen to ensure that the derby win does not become another false dawn. Several of his predecessors have enjoyed success in the same fixture early in their tenure, only to find themselves out of a job within months.

He will also be aware that his team were second best until the penalty incident turned the game in his favour.

The experienced boss has plenty of work to do to ensure his new charges escape the drop. Here are three key things he will be aiming to accomplish to ensure survival…

Sort out the defence

Younes Kaboul

There is no doubt Sunderland will go down if they keep conceding goals at the rate they have done over the opening ten games.

The clean sheet in the derby was the first of the season and it came via riding their luck. The Northeast based outfit have shipped 19 goals already and quick calculation projects them being breached 72 times over the course of the campaign defending as they are now.

That number is more than four of the six teams to have been relegated from the division over the last couple of years. Hull City went down last year having conceded just 51.

Allardyce will be thankful that the goalkeeper position at least, is not an area of concern with Costel Pantilimon beginning the season in fine form.

The unit in front of the big Romanian though, requires drastic improvement to prevent him from being exposed. A fair bit of experience is available to the former Bolton manager, especially in the centre back positions but it seems the rearguard have yet to gel.

This will be top of his list of priorities. Big Sam has traditionally looked to make his sides difficult to beat with attacking threat usually regarded as the second phase of the plan.

Recruit well in January

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Barclays Premier League

For the clubs at the lower end of the table come the midway point of the season, the January transfer window always represents a potential lifeline and an opportunity to clamber away from trouble.

On many occasions as little as one key signing has become an escape route. Of course there is no doubt plenty of teams have spent big in the New Year and gone down anyway but Allardyce will have one eye on potential recruits already.

He will need the full backing of owner Ellis Short, who has come under criticism from the club’s fan base in recent seasons for failing to deliver on perceived promises of transfer warchests.

While an extravagant spending spree is unlikely, Big Sam will want to strengthen at least a couple of areas.

It seems he might already be looking at the defence with FC Sion defender Leo Lacroix rumoured to be a target. The big powerful athlete might be just the tonic for the club’s backline with his pace and strength.

A permanent deal for the on-loan Yann M’Vila, who has been impressing of late, might also be good business.

Put points on the board now

Sunderland v Newcastle United - Barclays Premier League

It seems obvious to suggest that the Stadium of Light outfit need to start getting more points to avoid the drop, but the urgency of the situation should not be underestimated.

Southampton, Stoke and Watford all need to make the trip to Wearside during the autumn and Allardyce should be looking to win each of those games to get the club on the right track.

Sunderland have a tough run of games over the festive period, so unless some points are gathered now, the situation could be even bleaker come the turn of the year.

Managers usually regard 40 points as the magic number that guarantees top flight status and with just six on the board there is a mountain to climb.

To stay up it is vital that you beat the teams around you and regard anything taken from playing the top sides as a bonus. Six points needs to be, at the very least 16, before the meeting with rock bottom Aston Villa on 2nd January.

Article title: Three things Sam Allardyce must do to keep Sunderland up

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