SUNDERLAND’S great recent away record came to an end on Saturday with Arsenal’s emphatic 4-1 win at the Emirates.
That certainly wasn’t the sort of result or performance to take into a cup final - the scoreline did not flatter Arsenal, and Sunderland can have no complaints.
It was far too easy for the Gunners early on, as Sunderland were lethargic from kick-off and seemed reluctant to make challenges or put Arsenal players under any sort of pressure when they had possession.
It was no surprise that Arsenal dominated the ball.
That was always likely to happen.
But it was disappointing that Sunderland couldn’t break up the game, as they allowed Arsenal to put passing moves together at will.
To make matters worse, Sunderland gifted Arsenal the second goal, which effectively killed Sunderland off because they were never going to get back into the game from there.
The absence of Wes Brown through suspension was a big handicap for Sunderland, not only is he our best defender but the whole of the back four function better when he’s around.
Lee Cattermole was also missed, with Gus Poyet choosing to hold him back for the cup final.
And we lacked the bite and aggression in the middle of the park that he usually provides.
But Sunderland can’t use the absence of two players as an excuse for a below-par performance where they were very much second best.
I thought John O’Shea hit the nail on the head after the game when he admitted that Sunderland showed Arsenal too much respect and individually didn’t hit the standards they’ve been setting in their away performances of late.
There were few positives to take from the game but Emanuele Giaccherini’s goal deserves credit - a stunning strike and the match highlight for Sunderland.
It’s no disgrace to lose away to an Arsenal team challenging for the title.
But Gus Poyet will want to see a big improvement and a lot more urgency from his team in their next game in London, this Sunday.