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Arsenal v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Quarter Final

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Two Up, Two Down: What were the positives & negatives from Sunderland’s performance at Arsenal?

Now that the dust has settled, let’s look back at the performance... what were the biggest positives and negatives we can take from Sunderland’s loss at Arsenal?

Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Mark Wood says...

TWO UP!

Despite the scoreline we played pretty well at times and caused them problems. Particularly at 2-1 going up to half time, it was all Sunderland and we did not really at any point capitulate as many punters may have thought beforehand. Losing Broadhead probably impaired the cutting edge we had going forward up until that point, and overall I felt 5-1 was harsh, indeed as would it have been if it ended 4-1.

There were a few of our players who put in decent performances against a team two clear leagues higher than us. I thought Gooch kept going and showed some decent touches going forwards, Stewart did well holding the ball up and laying off as ever and Winchester didn’t look overawed at all. But if the Arsenal fans taunted ‘ Who are ya? ‘ then you can be sure the Arsenal defence was muttering ‘Yeah... this one’s Alex Pritchard’ as he didn’t stop running, intercepting, closing down, harrying, laying on chances and giving his opponents a run for their money until the final whistle.

TWO DOWN!

Megnuts! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Denver Hume all in two minutes. First, the good sweeping forwards majestically to lay on a chance for Stewart, thirty seconds later the bad as Pepe made him look like a chump for the first time to lay on Arsenal’s third. Then two minutes later the ugly as he got booked for resorting to using his hands to stop his man from breaking clear. And it didn’t stop there. He is undoubtedly rusty and just back from injury, but for a man that has been touted as having potential to play in the Premier League he was horribly, horribly exposed by a Premier League opponent.

Maybe a nitpick, but before the game I didn’t think given our current injury situation that Lee Johnson would play a full first team, given that we would be unlikely to win. Once he did I was hoping... probably against hope... that we would get through 90 minutes without any casualties. As it is, Broadhead has tweaked his hamstring, and although it's too early to say how long he will be out, we will miss his pace and cutting edge, not to mention his recent goal-scoring form.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Carabao Cup - Quarter Final - Emirates Stadium Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images

Mike Dunne says...

TWO UP!

Alex Pritchard was superb. He’s in fantastic form at the minute, and last night he was able to hang with the big boys. Every time he touched the ball in the Arsenal half I thought he was going to cause a problem - he didn’t look out of place against a top Premier League side. His composure and close control are well above the level of footballers that you generally see in League One. Historically, fitness is his issue. He is going to be a massive asset for us this season if we can keep him fit. Wrap him up in cotton wool!

The fans! No surprises here. To take 5000 fans to London less than a week before Christmas in midst of a global pandemic that is crippling London especially at present is sensational. The pull of this club is just extraordinary and the fans cheered the lads on throughout! They all deserve a pat on the back!

TWO DOWN!

The biggest negative of the entire evening was not the result but the blow of losing our biggest goal threat, Nathan Broadhead. After an exemplary finish in the first half, Broadhead pulled up with an apparent hamstring issue just before half time. Not only could we not afford injuries, but Broadhead was also probably the first name that fans would say we didn’t want to lose. The Everton loanee has found himself in fantastic form at present and with Ross Stewart’s goals drying up, a lot of emphasis and reliability was put on the Welshman. With games against Doncaster, Sheffield Wednesday and Fleetwood in close proximity next week, this is a massive blow for Lee Johnson.

Yes it was Arsenal, and yes we are in League One, but some of the defending was poor. I don’t feel the necessity to mention names, but too much space and time was given to Arsenal - I just hope it doesn’t creep into more important games. Our defending has been inconsistent, but this was a new level. Let’s learn from it.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Quarter Final Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Joseph Tulip says...

TWO UP!

Superb going forward. When did we last cause so many problems for a Premier League defence in the manner in which we did for periods last night? We really did look cultured at times with our movement and link-up play, with Nathan Broadhead’s goal finishing our best move of the match. While we conceded too many, I always felt we looked genuinely likely to score throughout the game.

Growing in confidence. Our attacking players really did let their hair down with nothing to lose, with the likes of Broadhead, Pritchard and Dan Neill really shining. Playing against a top side will have been a huge learning experience for our players and hopefully this will help us to be more ruthless against League One sides as we believe more in our ability, especially going forward.

TWO DOWN!

Stretched at the back. Much has been said about the quality of Arsenal’s goals, but defensively we were not at our best. Perhaps we were too gung-ho in our approach leaving ourselves open at the back but I still think individuals could have done better with marking and keeping their respective marked men at bay. I did feel for the clearly not fully fit Denver Hume who was given a torrid time, while Lynden Gooch struggled defensively while out of position at wing back.

Occasional bad decisions. I don’t like to single anyone out, but despite the many likeable qualities of Carl Winchester, he does struggle with decision making when he’s played through on the overlap from wing back. If Winchester can be more composed on the ball in those situations he really could add a few assists to his name.

This was a night full of positives for me. A big match against a top Premier League outfit was a great education in the development of our young side, who will only learn and improve from the experience. And did they prove they can play on such a stage? You bet they did! Let’s not worry about the goals we conceded. Give Eddie Nketiah and Co credit, let’s tighten up and we’ll not come up against such quality in League One.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Carabao Cup Quarter Final Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images

Malc Dugdale says...

TWO UP!

Kudos! On several occasions. more than one of the Sky commentary staff paid us a real compliment, stating that it wasn’t obvious this game didn’t feature two Premier League sides. That shows to me that our strategy, ethos and playing style is developing really well and bedding in such that we really can play “our way” against anyone. When higher-level football is back in our hands regularly, some adjustments will be needed but we have a great base to work from. That has to be a strong positive for the future, which we certainly didn’t have under Short or Madrox.

Depth is good. A great goal for Nathan, and a great pass from Embleton who also hit the post with a curling attempt from outside the box. With all the (deserved) plaudits for young Dan and “better every game” Alex, it’s great to see Embo grab a chance to shine in his attacking role. We need all these players to excel, not just the ones on the pitch for any one game.

TWO DOWN!

Defensive woes. Despite a great performance we lost by 4 goals, and many of those goals showed that our lack of quality players in defence (primarily due to injuries) is one of the biggest issues we need to address. People may criticise Hume and Embleton for their more obvious errors related to two of the goals, but Embleton should never have been put in a 1 on 1 position with a premier league winger. Hume is barely back from his latest injury, so is going to lack match sharpness and fitness. If it wasn’t for Leon’s injury, Denver would likely still be building up match minutes from the bench to contribute more from the new year.

I am not a fan of throwing money at an issue but we simply have to invest in full backs this transfer window. If loan players are injured or aren’t stepping up (Alves) let them go and use other loans if needs be. This has to be sorted for us to succeed.

We now need two attackers in the window. Even before the hammy twang for Nathan we had very little cover for Ross who isn’t scoring a lot of late. The one out and out attacker we had on the bench is unproven even at League One level, and the gaffer clearly doesn’t fancy him as he held back the intro till injury time. I’d like us to secure more of each ideally - a pace man like Nathan and maybe a target man, as we could do with a bit more of that.

The only up side of Nathan’s injury is the timing. If his hammy had twanged later in January we would likely not have time to source a really good option to back him up. Now we know he has some niggles we simply have to expand our options. At least the shopping list has cleared up now though, as we may well have basked in Nathan’s ability and not invested had this injury not happened when it did.

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