Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Are Cats Gunner Be Put Down?

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Are Cats Gunner Be Put Down?

Article excerpt

Byline: James Hunter

Arsenal ..................... 2 Sunderland ............... 0 HOW quickly fortunes change in the Premier League.

When Sunderland beat Arsenal at the Stadium of Light earlier this season the Black Cats were eighth, two points outside the Champions League places, and Steve Bruce dared to hope his side might join the likes of Spurs, Aston Villa and Manchester City as European contenders.

That was three months ago and Sunderland haven't won a league game since.

Now, after losing the return game 2-0 at the Emirates at the weekend, Bruce was talking about how many points a team might need to survive in the top flight this term.

A miserable run of 13 games without a win, which has yielded just six points, has left the Wearsiders 14th in the table, a mere three points above the relegation zone.

Bruce admitted: "I'd say 40 points is usually the benchmark but 35 was enough last year and 37 the year before.

"Who knows what it will be this year? I do know that the big teams have dropped points against the socalled smaller sides this year, so you might need a few more."

The early optimism that surrounded Sunderland's promising start to the campaign has long since gone, to be replaced by same nervous glances over the shoulder that were a feature of their first two seasons back in the top flight.

Both times, Sunderland managed to avoid the drop and Bruce's number one priority now is making sure he does not fail where Roy Keane and Ricky Sbragia succeeded before him.

To be fair, Sunderland have improved - marginally - of late. The defeat at Arsenal ended a run of three successive draws and Bruce believes there are signs that Sunderland will get out of this rut.

"In life, when things are going against you, I think the only thing you can do is batten down the hatches and work even harder," he said. "You examine everything and, I believe, things like this make you stronger.

"It hasn't been easy, especially after we had such a wonderful start.

"If someone had said that we would go 13 games without a win, I would have thought that was practically impossible.

"We have had our big players hit by injuries - we know that - but I don't want to make any more excuses.

"The signs have been good over the last few weeks and we are getting back to where we were at the start of the season.

"It's vital that we rediscover that form and get back that resilience that we had back then."

Sunderland were on the back foot right from the off against Arsenal, who identified George McCartney as the weak link in the back four and employed Theo Walcott's pace to great effect against the Northern Ireland left-back.

So much so that Bruce swapped McCartney and holding midfielder Anton Ferdinand around before halftime to try to stem the steady tide of attacks down that flank. …

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