IT might not be a message that frustrated Sunderland fans want to hear, but Steve Bruce reckons his team is not far away from hitting its Premier League stride.
Stressed away fans watched Sunderland slip to another defeat yesterday at the Emirates Stadium, leaving the Black Cats fourth bottom with six points from eight games, having won only one game this season.
But it was a different statistic that Bruce wanted to focus on afterwards.
”It’s disappointing to lose to Arsenal when we came so close to getting a point,” he said.
“But I think, overall, we’ve played well yet again.
“If you review our season so far, I think we’ve perhaps played badly only once so far this season, and that was against Norwich City.
“Other than that, I think we’ve acquitted ourselves well but just not had things go our way – that’s been our season so far.”
For the second game in a row, Bruce saw his side get off to the most catastrophic of starts – this time conceding within 30 seconds of kick-off.
But he was pleased with the way that his players stuck at the job, weathered Arsenal’s dominance, and gave themselves a chance.
“I thought we did so well after the first 20 minutes when we were really up against it,” added the manager.
“We haven’t really got what we’ve deserved, but that’s the nature of this league.
“You can quite easily go six or seven games without a win at this level and that’s what’s happening to us at the moment.
“We have to accept it’s our turn, get on with it and push through it.
“For 20 minutes, we had to stick in there and then Seb Larsson got us back in it with a wonder goal.”
Bruce felt if his team could have got their noses in front before the interval it might have made all the difference, but neither Lee Cattermole and Jack Colback could make the most of their opportunities.
“The big turning point for me was the miss just before half-time from Cattermole,” sighed Bruce.
“It was a great save from Lee’s header from the keeper, but, from three yards out, you expect to score.”
Bruce bemoaned his side’s tendency to give cheap free-kicks away around the edge of their own area but still retains faith in the squad he has assembled.
“We’ve had a disappointing start and that’s not great for your confidence,” he accepted.
“But I look at them every day, I train with them every day, and we’ve got the nucleus of a very useful squad.
“We just have to stick with it.”