Sunderland endured a frustrating and genuinely unfortunate 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal. We highlight some key points for discussion.
What The Gaffer Said
Martin O'Neill certainly didn't seem overly despondent. He told SAFC TV:
It was a fantastic game of football.
The early chances at either end set the pattern for the rest of the game.
I think Simon Mignolet made some good saves for us and their goalkeeper was a tower for them in the second half.
Arsenal are a fine side and they caused us a few problems - we tried to deal with them as best we could.
It was a fantastic effort by the team in the second half. We couldn't get the ball over the line, but it wasn't for a lack of trying.
Obviously as we were pressing they had an opportunity or two to put the game beyond us - in that aspect we had a bit of luck, but at the other end we had none.
Sometimes you just know a manager is trying to put a positive spin on a disappointing result, but I don't think that is what this is from O'Neill.
I'd say he has every right to be genuinely happy with the effort and some of the football played by his side in this one. When you go up against the top teams all you can really ask is that if they are going to beat you, then you make them work very hard for it, and that is exactly what happened here.
‘Awful First Half'?
I keep seeing ‘awful', ‘embarrassing', ‘disgraceful' and various other needlessly dramatic verbs used to describe Sunderland's first half performance but I am not sure any are really necessary.
Yes, after an open first 20 minutes, Arsenal got on top and asserted themselves by keeping the ball and ensuring the play was crammed predominantly into the Sunderland half until the break.
But Arsenal are a top side packed with quality players who are seasoned Champions League schemers. Of course they are going to come here and have a spell of dominance. It's nothing to get in a flap over.
Frankly, if you were genuinely appalled by Sunderland being powerless to stop Arsenal from having a strong passage of play in which they were in the ascendancy and creating chances, it may be time to have a bit of a rethink regarding realistic expectations.
Johnson And Sessegnon Are Not Traditional Wingers
If this game proved anything, then it is that, although both play on the wing, neither Adam Johnson nor Stephane Sessegnon are traditional wide-men and we should probably adjust our perception of them accordingly.
With all the will in the world, neither of them are going to be happy going round the outside and whipping crosses around defenders. They both want to be heading towards the penalty area and keeping full backs guessing.
Against Arsenal the difference in both players when they swapped flanks was remarkable. Sessegnon forged what looked like a hugely promising partnership with Danny Rose and Johnson looked far more likely to create too than when he was shackled to the left touchline being quietly ushered down blind alleys.
Hopefully this is something that will continue, as getting the best out of them both is surely the key to us all having a lot more fun at the Stadium of Light.
Injuries Just Keep On Happening
One of the biggest criticisms of Steve Bruce was that he would often bring back a player from injury too early only to see the injury aggravated once again during the game.
The manager has changed, but the problem certainly hasn't gone with him.
Both Danny Rose and Lee Cattermole made a return to the side this weekend and, qu'elle surprise, both left the game early due to what looked like a re-occurrence of the original injury.
Perhaps it is time to start looking a bit deeper and examining the quality of the advice managers are receiving from the medical staff at the club as this seems to be a problem with which only Sunderland consistently struggle.