Chris Young’s SAFC Verdict: Sunderland 0 Arsenal 2

Vito Mannone despairs after his mistake led to Arsenal going two up in stoppage time against Sunderland today
Vito Mannone despairs after his mistake led to Arsenal going two up in stoppage time against Sunderland today
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CANNOT make silly mistakes at this level.

Cannot make silly mistakes at this level.

Cannot make silly mistakes at this level.

Maybe a spot of old-fashioned classroom lines would offer the solution to halting this pattern of self-inflicted wounds before they become any more costly.

One of the last things Gus Poyet will surely have said to his troops before they ran out before kick-off will have been to avoid doing anything daft.

But if Poyet was left without an explanation for the clangers at Southampton, then he must again have been rendered speechless by the manner of Sunderland’s mistakes against a calibre of side who will inevitably profit from such kind-heartedness.

Sunderland didn’t show enough going forwards to merit anything against the Gunners, albeit the visitors were reliant on the excellence of Alexis Sanchez for much of their attacking threat.

But the two howlers which handed Arsenal their two goals were from exactly the same category as the ones at Southampton. Awful.

Wes Brown had no need to pass the ball back to his own goal from the centre-circle. He had even less need to pass it backwards when he was off-balance, on the turn.

It proved catching after Will Buckley left Vito Mannone in no-man’s land when passing the ball back to the keeper from six yards out.

However, Mannone could still have hoofed it away first-time. By taking a needless, calamitous touch, he gave Sanchez the opportunity.

Both were moments of alarming anxiety.

The rout at Southampton could have been attributed to a one-off if Sunderland had responded with a rip-snorting performance against Arsenal, even if they had suffered defeat.

But there was clear evidence here that the scars of the St Mary’s mauling may have more long-term repercussions.

Sunderland set out with a solid defensive shape, but there were still signs of the jitters early on; Mannone spilling Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross before John O’Shea cleared.

And after Arsenal went ahead, Sunderland’s self-belief noticeably evaporated. Half-time arrived at a fortunate moment for Poyet’s side.

There was far more bite and purpose around Sunderland in the second half and they were helped by abandoning their ploy of defending so perilously deep.

But they never really boasted a goal threat.

Wojciech Szczesny had a couple of routine saves to make, but other than that, Arsenal’s back-line were comfortable.

Sunderland’s ultimately wasn’t and that’s the worry.

The Black Cats’ strategy this season was to keep things solid, be reliable in possession and make the most of the odd chance that they create.

That blueprint has been smudged by the defeat at St Mary’s.

The picture needs to be redrawn swiftly.

* Don’t miss Monday’s Sunderland Echo for the best coverage of today’s match