LATE defeat in the midst of the part-time autograph hunters at the Emirates doesn’t prompt disgrace, no matter the inadequacies of Arsene Wenger’s current batch.
Yet Sunderland are enduring one of those sequences where fingers are persistently wagged and accusations levelled following a loss, no matter the quality of the performance or the mitigating circumstances.
Sunderland’s inability to counter Robin van Persie’s modest movement inside the first 30 seconds and their willingness to concede a host of tempestuous free-kicks on the fringes of their penalty box can hardly be levelled at Steve Bruce’s door.
But Bruce’s detractors are inevitably playing the blame game when it comes to the Sunderland manager’s team selection, given Arsenal’s current back four produce laughable comparisons with the giants of Bould, Adams, Winterburn and Dixon.
Can Bruce really be blamed, though, for opting for Stephane Sessegnon as his lone striker, given the alternatives of the travel-weary Ji Dong-won and the recently-recovered Connor Wickham – two players who continue to both encourage and frustrate?
Doubtless, the Sunderland boss would have relished the opportunity to pit Nicklas Bendtner against the side he was so keen to part ways with on deadline day, particularly given that the Dane has been the stand-out performer since arriving on a season-long loan.
It would have made an intriguing spectacle if Bendtner had been able to test his guile against Arsenal’s now notoriously dysfunctional backline and could well have made the difference between a heartening performance and a heartening result.
READ the full verdict in Monday’s Echo