Steven Gerrard, serving as a pundit on BT Sport, recently accused Sunderland of being nothing more than a mid-table Championship side without the utility of Jermain Defoe. As much as I hate to accept such a damning accusation made against the football club I hold dearest, I can't find much reason to argue back.
More often than not - much more often than not - Sunderland won’t score if Defoe can't score.
Patrick Van Aanholt might have nabbed a few here and there prior to his departure, and Victor Anichebe's impact made the difference against Bournemouth and Hull - but only one man in our team consistently answers the call when the red-and-white faithful cries out for a glorious, game-changing moment.
We can find ourselves on the back foot, pinned down, under siege and against the odds for an entire game, yet in the backs of our minds we maintain the knowledge that all it takes is one of our spontaneous, disorganized counter-attacks to give Defoe half the chance he needs.
Unfortunately, in recent games all Defoe has had to show for his services is a handful of 'almosts' and 'not quites'.
Everton and Manchester City each handed the Black Cats frontman a singular opportunity to put a blockade in the one-way traffic. Defoe saw his effort rebound off the post in his chance against City, and his effort against Everton failed to get further than the underside of the bar.
The fact that we haven't scored at all in the past three games at all seems like an ominous coincidence at best and a grim reality at worst. Like I said before: if Defoe doesn't deliver, don't expect a delivery.
Burnley are by no means a team that anyone in the Sunderland changing room will underestimate - well, they certainly shouldn't be, considering we've played them three times this season and still haven't beat them!
But even so, they're undoubtedly weaker opposition than Everton and City.
Based on our accumulated experience of Defoe, you'd reckon it'd only be a matter of time before he started knocking them in again, and playing a team of a comparatively lower calibre to the ones most recently encountered should - hopefully - get the veteran striker back on track.
If you want to reignite your optimism with concrete fact, then it's worth mentioning that Defoe's ratio of shots works out to one in every three being on target - and Burnley concede approximately eighteen shots per game.
As our primary attacking outlet, it's not unreasonable to assume that - if Burnley allowed us eighteen shots - most of them would come from Defoe. What do you reckon the chances are that at least one of those are finding the net?
Putting all our (remaining) faith in one thirty-four year old striker may seem, from an outsider's perspective, to be a blatantly unhealthy gamble - but that's because there's no other striker currently employed by our club that we could even consider devoting our willpower to.
Anichebe showed promise and introduced the dynamic of the big target-man, which by all accounts was something that innovated our weekly lineup, but injuries have kept him out of contention, and will continue to do so until April. There's Borini too, but all he seems to do now is get on people's nerves.
On his day, in any year in his career, this week's Top Cat Defoe can find his way through the back-line of any opposition. All he needs is enough service and that glimmer of fortune characteristic of any soon to be in-form striker.