'Proud of them': Lee Johnson delivers this verdict on Arsenal defeat and 'brilliant' Sunderland support
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But the Black Cats had gone into the break just one goal behind after Nathan Broadhead's delicate chip, and that was more than fair reward for their excellent play in possession at times.
Johnson hailed Sunderland' s 5,000 strong support and said it was the perfect learning experience for his players.
"First and foremost, I thought the fans were just brilliant," he said.
"I bumped into them on the train and in a local pub as I walked past.
"Hearing them sing all game and support the lads was great.
"I thought the lads played really well in patches. It’s a massive lesson for them – the best lesson you could possibly feel. They all aspire to be top-level players, but are we doing everything to be able to develop top-level players? I think we are, but for them to feel it, I think it sharpens the pencil with everything – body fat, the details on the passing drills, everything. I shouldn’t have to nag now. I should just say one thing, ‘Remember the Arsenal game?’
"I’m proud of them because you could put together ten, 15 or maybe 20 minutes of highlights of really good play and a really strong philosophy.
"That was what I was pleased with, that we’ve come to Arsenal with all their quality and speed – and in the end it’s the speed that kills you – and we’ve done really well and shown in patches why we’re up in the top regions of League One," he added.
“I thought in the first 20 minutes we were a little bit nervy and slung the ball in a bit too early.
"I actually felt once we beat their press, there was more passes there, and I think the goal actually gave us confidence to be able to do that.
"For that patch, 15 or 20 minutes after we scored and going into half-time, you felt ‘We’ve got a chance of getting back in this’.
"We had some corners and wide free-kicks and a couple of shots on goal, and we looked dangerous.
"Of course, they’ve always got that threat on the counter and with a couple of quick slick moves, which was impressive.
"The individual brilliance of the fourth goal in particular was fantastic. But again, we’ve got to learn. Denver’s been nutmegged a couple of times in the game, but that’s something we’ve identified and he can work on to become the best possible defender he can be.”
An encouraging night for Sunderland came with one significant sting in the tail, as Nathan Broadhead suffered another hamstring injury.
The Everton loanee was replaced just before the break and looks set for a spell on the sidelines, with Johnson saying that he 'will need help' in the January window as a result.