Gus Poyet says the time to protect his goal-shy strikers has come to an end and urged them to start taking responsibility for firing Sunderland to Premier League survival.
The Uruguayan has grown frustrated at not being able to rely upon his forward players to score goals, and opened up about it in a fairly brutal and frank way. He told reporters:
It is 38 games and there are no excuses, they all will have played their part, had an opportunity, they all had their chances.
How many goals? The rest of the players you look in a different way, but the strikers, how many? How many goals per game. It's there. That's why I said I would love to be in that position. Somehow, I don't know how, getting a rebound, a scrappy goal or the best goal of my life, but make sure that I'm there.
Strikers are not always judged on goals, not all the time, but for me and the way we want to go in the future, if I've got two or three and I play them through the middle they have to get double figures. Somehow they have to get it.
If you play 30 games in a season up front, you need to score double figures to be a Premier League player week in, week out, in a team that you want to be alright.
To play at this level in a team that is performing in that way, I'm not going to blame anyone that we couldn't score a three goal for three months when we were rubbish. Strikers as well they need their turn to play for you to score.
I'm not asking them to do everything. I'm just trying to make sure we do the right things and we didn't do it. If you go August, September, October, we didn't so it's not just up to them. Last month and a half, we did.
I saved them from responsibility for the first three months and a half, then I don't in the last month and a half. it's clear. We'll see. I'm still waiting. I'm seeing better things every day, because I've got the chance to see them every day, but they need to take it into the game.
I think that on paper, Sunderland's forward options are fairly good. You have a battering ram in Jozy Altidore who, whilst a bit hopeless in front of goal, can cause immense problems for a defence on his day like he did against Newcastle recently.
Then you have a touch and movement player in Steven Fletcher. He isn't much of an athlete but he is very clever and subtle. Of course, he has carried injuries all season so it has been tough for him to shine.
Fabio Borini is easily the most incisive player of the forward options. The Italian is the player you'd fancy to breach a defence with a positive run off the ball. He has been used mainly from the left of a front three, though.
You also now have Nacho Scocco who, whilst we have seen very little of in the flesh, is an explosive finisher who is very comfortable playing off the front.
So the mix and options are there. However, you can't argue with Poyet that the former three haven't produced enough goals and it's very annoying, especially since chances have started to be created for them. I've always been one to believe that a lack of confidence in strikers spreads an anxiety through the whole team and I think that has been evident all season for Sunderland.
So what is the solution? Well, Poyet is wondering that if quality can't provide goals, perhaps quantity can.
We need to do better at home and one of the biggest things is that we've got a great chance in the future to play two strikers. It hasn't been working with one for some reason.
It could be two strikers all the time.
Now, you can't really see Poyet going straight 4-4-2. He values the split centre-backs/deep-lying midfielder combination too much. It provides the bedrock of his whole philospophy. However, it wouldn't surprise me to see Poyet go all the way back to the formula he used in his first home game in charge when he played both Fletcher and Altidore to good effect.
That day Seb Larsson defended from the right without the ball and tucked into the centre to make a three man midfield whilst in possession. That could certainly work again and it would also be a system that could accommodate Adam Johnson in his current position.
Plenty of food for thought, then. But one thing for absolute certain is that Poyet seems utterly fed up with non-scoring strikers.