Midfielder Sebastian Larsson says Sunderland have a tougher defensive mindset this season, despite October's 8-0 defeat by Southampton.
The Black Cats have lost just three games this season and conceded 19 goals, with just 11 in as many games excluding the Saints loss.
This time last year the Black Cats were bottom with just seven points.
"It sounds silly when we've lost a game 8-0 but I do feel we're a more solid team," Larsson told BBC Newcastle.
"We know more about ourselves, how to handle different situations during games and different opposition.
"I definitely think it's moving in the right direction."
|16 Aug: West Brom (a) 2-2||27 Sep: Swansea City (h) 0-0|
|22 Aug: Man United (h) 1-1||9 Nov: Everton (h) 1-1|
|13 Sep: Tottenham (h) 2-2||22 Nov: Leicester City (a) 0-0|
|20 Sep: Burnley (a) 0-0|
No side has been involved in more Premier League stalemates than Sunderland in 2014-15, with Gus Poyet's outfit drawing seven of their 12 games thus far.
However, with only two wins, the joint-lowest in the division alongside four other clubs, they occupy a bottom-half place prior to the visit of league leaders Chelsea on Saturday.
"That's the challenge we've got, we're more solid but that's the next step," added Larsson.
"It's as simple as getting over the line, turning one point into three because a few of those draws, if they turn into three points we're way up the league.
"I prefer to look at it that way rather than the negative."