PATRICK VAN AANHOLT admits remodelling Sunderland’s much-changed defence is proving a challenge, following a summer of considerable upheaval at the Stadium of Light.

The Black Cats’ back four disintegrated on Monday night as Romelu Lukaku’s second-half hat-trick condemned David Moyes’ side to a crushing 3-0 home defeat that left them still searching for their first league win of the season.

Both Javier Manquillo, who played at right-back, and Papy Djilobodji, who made a series of errors at the heart of the back four, were new arrivals on Wearside this summer, with Jason Denayer, who came on as a substitute in the closing stages, only having joined on loan from Manchester City on transfer-deadline day.

Moyes has been trying to develop an understanding between his defenders, but while there were signs of progress in the draw at Southampton that preceded the international break, Monday’s capitulation suggests there is still plenty of work to be done.

“Of course the new players need time to adapt,” said van Aanholt, who was one of only four players in Monday’s line-up to have also started the 3-0 win over Everton that confirmed Sunderland’s Premier League survival in May. “We saw against Everton, we had the right-back Manquillo and at centre-back, Papy.

“Papy is familiar with the Premier League, having played for Chelsea, but we need to help them in training and try to speak the same language because it’s very hard to understand them on the pitch.

“But we’re training every day with them, so we’re trying to explain to them how to adapt, how to play, and they’re taking it very well. We just want to move forward now.”

Sunderland’s defending will have to improve markedly if they are not to suffer another defeat at Tottenham on Sunday, with Mauricio Pochettino’s in-form team having put four goals past Stoke City at the weekend.

Moyes could switch to three centre-halves in an attempt to shore things up at the heart of the backline, with Denayer potentially joining Djilobodji and Kone in the starting line-up.

Whatever happens, the Black Cats cannot afford a repeat of Monday’s shakiness if they are to buck a worrying trend and record what would be their first league win in either August or September since 2012.

Slow starts have become par for the course with the Wearsiders, but while van Aanholt had hoped this year might be different, the Dutchman is taking solace from the way in which his team-mates have turned around similar situations in the past.

“Obviously it’s frustrating because we’re still waiting for our first win, but the season is long so if we can just get our first win, I’m still very positive that we will get back up there and start playing some good football.

“We’ve just got to be patient. We created lots of chances (against Everton) – we’re just got to create those chances and turn them into goals. If you can score goals, you can do it. We showed that last season, so why can’t we do it again this season too?”

The most alarming aspect of Monday’s display was the speed at which Sunderland capitulated after Lukaku headed Everton into the lead, with the Belgian striker going on to help himself to an 11-minute hat-trick.

Clearly, the Black Cats have to develop a stronger backbone than that, particularly if they are going to succeed at venues such as White Hart Lane.

“We were in the game,” said van Aanholt. “We created loads of chances, and at half-time, 0-0, everything was okay. We came out, I think we had some more chances, but after they scored the first goal, our heads went down and that was it.

“We’ve got a whole week to get ourselves ready for Tottenham now. I’m very positive that when we get our first win, we’ll start winning more games.”