Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Only Way out May Be Down for Cats; THE MATCH: Sunderland 1 Arsenal 4

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Only Way out May Be Down for Cats; THE MATCH: Sunderland 1 Arsenal 4

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner at the Stadium of Light @StuRayner

THE players are giving everything they can," David Moyes said after Sunderland's fourth defeat in five games. "It was not through the lack of effort or the lack of trying." It was hard to argue.

Yet if a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal is as good as it gets when it comes to effort, is that cause for optimism or despair? If this was a squad going through the motions, a change of manager could make all the difference.

Making the Black Cats' players better is tougher - and slower - than making them work harder, but that is the challenge facing their manager.

In the last couple of games, 1-0 defeats, Moyes could point to greater solidity as a sign things were inching in the right direction - too slowly for comfort, admittedly, but at least something to cling to.

Plenty of good sides get blown away by the Gunners - Chelsea were in September - and while it is foolish to jump to too many conclusions about Arsene Wenger's team before the clocks turn back, just as it is unwise to write off Sunderland before they go forward, the suspicion is he may finally have built another squad capable of seriously challenging for the title.

Being massively outpassed (34% of the ball) and outshot (21-3) was not that important. Even being outscored was no cause for panic. What was worrying was seeing the roof come in as soon as the Wearsiders found themselves back in the game.

It was not a lack of effort which saw Arsenal score three times within 13 minutes of Jermain Defoe's equaliser, it was a shortage of self-belief in the face of real quality.

Moyes talked before the game about having to take his "poison."

It was not a poisonous Stadium of Light but an air of resignation can be damaging too.

No one could argue the Black Cats were the better team at 1-1 but that did not matter. With 25 minutes still to play, few on the terraces probably believed their team were going to snatch a point but they had been allowed to hope. Optimism must partly explain why 44,322 turned up to watch a televised game.

It was quickly deflated when Arsenal took the lead with a routine goal. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain went past Duncan Watmore with a touch then put over a cross. While Lamine Kone watched, Alexis Sanchez ran in front of him and headed into the net.

From there, the traffic was more or less one-way as the Gunners pushed on.

Defoe's penalty would be Sunderland's only shot on target all day, Arsenal created lots.

Three chances around the quarterhour marked showed they are more prepared to pass from back to front these days and two fell to Oxlade-Chamberlain around the hour. He pulled both wide of the far post.

By now the fans were becoming understandably irritable with the lax defending and loose passing. …

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