John O'Shea believes Sunderland's January transfer business has left them in a far stronger position to deal with the demands of the run-in.
Manager Gus Poyet added Marcos Alonso, Santiago Vergini, Oscar Ustari, Nacho Scocco and Liam Bridcutt to the ranks last month for a relatively modest outlay, but all have made positive early impressions. That's a result of intelligent planning, O'Shea told the Sunderland Echo:
The manager knew all about the players he brought in in January. That was an important thing for him. He wanted players who could settle in quickly because of the position we're in.
We needed to add quality to the squad too, to increase the competition, and I think he's done that. If you have competition, that will always be the key to a successful team.
Of course, what else is O'Shea going to say? He is hardly likely to come out with: 'The new lads? Aye, they're rubbish marra, a total waste of everyone's time and Ellis' money. Bruce out.'
I do think that an obvious effort to get players in who can settle quickly has been made, though. Bridcutt knows Poyet and his methods inside out, so would have needed no settling-in time at all. In fact during his first game he was telling his teammates what to do.
There are always doubts about players coming from South America, but both Vergini and Scocco played a pretty much identical system last season with Newell's Old Boys, so again they are not being asked to do something completely out of their experience.
I think that, for the money spent, the early signs are that Poyet has done pretty well.