Just when will the misery end?
In this piece it will be in around 500-odd words time, but for Sunderland and their incredible supporters, the depressing times promise to go on for considerably longer.
Three goals in seven minutes later, they were staring at their worst defeat of the season in a half-empty stadium.
Having got back into Saturday’s game against Arsenal with Jermain Defoe’s 65th-minute penalty to make it 1-1, the Black Cats collapsed to lose 4-1.
Is there anything to learn from the eighth and heaviest defeat of the season?
Injured men needed back:
The Black Cats welcomed back Adnan Januzaj after a three-match absence, but to even up matters on the fitness front, they lost skipper John O’Shea with a hamstring problem.
Fortunately, there is an international break (yes, another one) coming up so he may not miss too many games.
Sunderland are missing Fabio Borini, Lee Cattermole, Jason Denayer and Jan Kirchhoff badly.
You would like to think that with Cattermole in the side there would be no slumps like the one on Saturday.
Side needs some gas.
While clearly not match sharp, Januzaj will at least bring some gas to the side.
The difference between the two sides at the Stadium of Light was emphasised by the speed going forward.
When Arsenal broke, they did so with pace and in numbers.
But the contrast with the hosts was highlighted early in the second half when Wahbi Khazri moved dangerously forward, but it was a 2v5 situation and he was tackled. A look back towards his own goal showed seven Cats just outside their own box.
Sunderland need a player or two who can get the team up the field in a matter of seconds.
Midfield needs attention:
A little bit like the last two points, it’s hard to summon up an answer, given the team’s injury woes in this area.
When Cattermole and Kirchhoff were on the field, Didier Ndong was starting to show up that little bit more in advanced areas.
Against Arsenal, while he played the ball which Duncan Watmore seized upon to win the penalty, that pass came from deep in his own half.
Twice he got forward early in the second period and got on the ball outside the away box, but was soon back closer to his own area.
David Moyes & co must find a way to get him in the opposition half more.
Get the ball to Defoe:
This reporter might have blinked and missed it, but the first decent pass to the feet of the top scorer came in the 38th minute and when it did come, the no18 was 10 yards inside the Gunners half.
Granted, Watmore did give him the perfect ball on 65 minutes – it was handed to him for a penalty – but his successful spot-kick was his only attempt on goal.
Make use of your luck:
This column has bemoaned the desertion of Lady Luck from Sunderland.
Well, she showed up on Saturday, only to be ushered. Just moments after Martin Atkinson denied Arsenal a stonewall penalty after Lamine Kone brought down Alexis Sanchez, he pointed top the spot at the other end after Petr Cech’s challenge on Watmore.
Atkinson, who had a perfect view of the Kone ‘tackle’, may have been fed up of the incessant whining of Sanchez, but whatever reason he chose not to give it, Sunderland must capitalise on such moments.
They did with Defoe’s emphatic pen, only to then switched off completely and three goals in seven minutes later, they were staring at their worst defeat of the season in a half-empty stadium.
A bit of class needed:
Class may be pushing it, perhaps skill or composure could be used instead?
How often did the hosts get near to the Arsenal area, let alone Cech. Not many.
So when you do get the chance to get in the box, what do you need? A decent delivery?
Khazri, whether he overhit it or underhit his ball, was probably the most guilty and Watmore, the man who superbly set up the equaliser against West Brom (how long ago does that now feel?) had a great chance to do something at 1-0 down but his ‘cross’ was tentative at best.
When the rare openings/ positions come along, they must do better.