A BRUTALLY frank Gustavo Poyet last night admitted it would take a “miracle” for his Sunderland side to avoid relegation to the Championship.
The Black Cats conceded four second-half goals as they crashed to a thumping 5-1 defeat at White Hart Lane that leaves them seven points adrift of safety with seven games remaining.
They have picked up just one point from their last seven matches, so given that their next three games will see them face Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City – all of whom are in the top five – the prospects of them clambering out of the bottom three are remote.
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Poyet admits as much, and after his side collapsed entirely in the closing stages at White Hart Lane, the Sunderland boss has conceded that their survival bid is as good as over.
“I am very honest, and I know where we are,” said Poyet. “I am realistic, and when you look at the table and the games that we have left, and how many that we need to win, I think we need a miracle.
“We need something unique, a shock because I cannot see it coming. It's definitely going to be more difficult after this. It's going to be practically impossible.”
Having claimed the lead when Lee Cattermole made the most of a defensive error from Vlad Chiriches, Sunderland were still in the game despite Emmanuel Adebyaor equalising towards the end of the first half.
However, after Harry Kane exploited some defensive weaknesses to fire Spurs into the lead, the hosts ran riot in the closing stages as Christian Eriksen, Adebayor and Gylfi Sigurdsson inflicted the Black Cats' heaviest defeat of the season.
The final three goals came after Poyet switched to a flat back four in an attempt to chase the game, and the Uruguayan admits his side's capitulation was proof of the defensive inadequacies that have plagued them all season.
“That's why we are where we are,” he said. “As soon as we chase the game and need to open up and interchange attack for attack, we become a very easy team to play against.
“That's why we are playing five at the back, it's as simple as that. As soon as we go to a four, we cannot defend, make decisions or go on one-against-ones. We cannot pass the ball or have a shot on target either.
“There are so many things that we cannot do, but now there is no place to hide. I am responsible, and I will take responsibility for everything that has happened.”
Sunderland's form has collapsed ever since they lost the Capital One Cup final to Manchester City, but rather than blaming his side's position on their cup exploits, Poyet feels that relegation would already have been guaranteed had some impressive knock-out displays not sparked a brief revival in the league.
“We are where we are because of the cup competitions, because if we had not been on that cup run, we would have been down already,” he said. “That cup run helped us in January, which was our best month.
“That put us in a great situation to take advantage, but as soon as we lost that run, the team went backwards dramatically - backwards in decision making and basic things.
“One of the first things I was told when I came to England was, 'Follow the runners – stop the cross'. How many times did we stop the cross today? What kind of effort did we put in to do that?”
Poyet's main task now is to attempt to lift his players ahead of Saturday's home game with an Everton side who have won their last five Premier League games in a row. It goes without saying that it will not be an easy task.
“It is something that I need to think about when I am calm,” he said. “Then we will see what happens.”