David Moyes fears Sunderland fans will be looking at the wrong end of the table throughout the Premier League campaign having seen his side lose 2-1 to newly promoted Middlesbrough.
A first-half brace from Cristhian Stuani left the Black Cats with it all to do at the Stadium of Light on Sunday and a late strike from Patrick van Aanholt proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
That meant hosts Sunderland sank to consecutive top-flight defeats for the first time since last December.
Moyes knows that he has a tough job to inspire his squad to avoid the drop in the same way England boss Sam Allardyce was able to do last season, with defensive improvements vital.
Fans are already pessimistic about Sunderland's short-term future and the former Everton boss gave an honest assessment to those who are worried about yet another relegation battle.
"The fans are probably right," Moyes said at his post-match media conference.
"It has been the same for the last few years and I think it will be again - you can't argue with the facts. People are hoping for it to dramatically change, but it can't.
"We hope that things will improve. Defensively, we have a young right-back and centre-half, but they need a lot of work and schooling.
"This is the group of players at the moment, but we have two or three who will come back [from injury] and we will add to it and improve.
"We have to get the balance right between youth and experience and get the right values in the transfer market. But it is not that easy - the prices are a bit more than they have been in the past."
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