Black Cats may need all nine lives for survival bid
Sam Allardyce insists Sunderland must shore up their leaky defence if they are to have any chance of staying in the Premier League.
Sunderland, who visit Crystal Palace tonight, have conceded 26 goals from their opening 12 fixtures.
Only newly-promoted Bournemouth have let in more.
"My philosophy has always been you start from the back, and it goes without saying every team which wins the league has the best defensive record," said Allardyce, who was appointed at the start of October.
"When we are a conceding, on average, over two goals a game, that is the first thing which we have to stop and the players have to understand that.
"If they think it is a negative, it is not, it is a massive positive because as soon as you don't concede a goal you don't lose the game, then you have got a point and of course afterwards you only need one goal to win it ... and getting safer up the league as quickly as possible."
Allardyce oversaw Sunderland's 3-0 victory against Newcastle last month, but has since seen his side slump to successive defeats at Everton and Southampton, leaving them second from bottom in the table and four points adrift of safety.
Alan Pardew, the Crystal Palace manager, still believes Allardyce is one of the strongest managers in the Premier League.
"I never fancy my chances against a Sam Allardyce team, he's got a knowledge and a respect from me that I will take into the game," said Pardew.
"I will expect a Sam Allardyce team to turn up and try their best to get a victory."
Crystal Palace v Sunderland Live, Sky Sports 1, 8.0