REJUVENATED Adam Johnson believes it is too early to talk of Sunderland being embroiled in a relegation fight.
England international Johnson was back to some semblance of form against Chelsea, scoring in the second half to top a performance that was dripping with menace.
But his excellent performance wasn’t enough to stop Sunderland from slumping to their seventh defeat in nine games – and falling into the bottom three of a condensed Premier League relegation struggle.
Johnson erred when asked whether it was beginning to look like a season of scrapping against the drop.
“There are loads of games to play,” he said. “If we win a couple of games we’re out of the drop zone. Then everyone will be saying we’re looking well. There’s not a lot of points between eight or nine teams and it’s too early to say we’re in a relegation battle.”
Johnson’s form has been the subject of much speculation this season but the former Middlesbrough man insists there is nothing to worry about.
He said: “I haven’t felt a lack of confidence in recent weeks. But it hasn’t really been happening for me. It’s not really been happening for the team, either. It’s hard to get yourself going when the team’s not performing.
“I think we’ve started to play well as a team and you’ll start to see the best of me as well. The confidence in the dressing room is fine but everyone is just eager to win.
“Everyone’s so frustrated because we know we’ve got the ability to win games. I don’t care who you are, it’s impossible to win games single-handedly, but as a team today there were lots of positives apart from the silly goals we conceded.”
Now Sunderland must beat Reading to prevent themselves getting sucked any deeper into the struggle.
“We were good and bad in equal measure. The Reading game is massive for us and it was always going to be even before this match. Everyone knows it’s our game in hand, and it’s important. If we play like we did today, we’ll do well,” Johnson said. “It’s up to us to try to do everything we can to win on Tuesday. It’s different from last year because it’s a totally different style of play. I have to do a lot more, because last season I could stay high up the pitch. It’s totally different here.”