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Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe believes that the club's present predicament is a result of the players not being fit enough under former boss Dick Advocaat.
The Dutchman, who oversaw a miraculous escape from relegation last season, departed after just eight games of the current campaign with
the Black Cats in deep trouble once again on three points. Although their fortunes have improved under new manager Sam Allardyce, the club is still mired in the relegation zone with just five games left to play, but are now just a single point behind 17th placed Norwich after a comprehensive 3-0 win at Carrow Road last weekend.
Defoe, who has 16 goals to his name this season, believes that the club's slow start to the campaign is to blame for their current plight.
"It's happened because of the start of the season. We just weren't good enough and we weren't fit enough," he said.
"If you look at the fitness stats now - the running stats and the high intensity stats, that side of it - we were so far off, so far off where we are now. Look at the (opening day)] game against Leicester - we were blown away. It was difficult.
"Now it's like a different team. The first thing the manager said when he came in, we had a meeting and he said, 'You're not fit enough.' He said, 'I'll get you fit and that's all you need' because we've got top players and internationals.
"But if you can't run, how are you meant to perform for 95 minutes?"
Allardyce's arrival proved to be good news for Defoe in particular as he eventually persuaded the new man he could score goals from a central position after being employed largely as a wide-man under Advocaat, and he goes into the weekend with 16 to his name.
Sunderland welcome third-placed Arsenal to the Stadium of Light on Sunday.
By: Kieran O'Daly