Sunderland 0-0 Arsenal: Important talking points as Black Cats move out of the bottom three

Sunderland earned an important point earlier today, as they held the Gunners to a goalless draw at the Stadium of Light.

Sunderland 0-0 Arsenal: Important talking points as Black Cats move out of the bottom three
Lamine Kone was part of a Sunderland defence that kept a third clean sheet in four games. (Photo: Sunderland AFC)

Sunderland held Arsenal to a goalless draw in front of a packed home crowd today, as they earned a point that took them out of the relegation zone on goal difference. Here, we look at five things that can be taken from the game.

Another hard-earned clean sheet shows defensive improvements

Sunderland have undergone a drastic change in form at the back, as they have now kept three clean sheets in their last four games after previously going on a run of 17 games without a shutout in all competitions.

This comes down to the performances of both Jan Kirchhoff in a holding midfield role as well as the partnership of Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul in central defence. Sam Allardyce's side have looked much more assured at the back in recent weeks, limiting the opposition to very few chances with only league leaders Leicester City able to break through the back-line in the last four matches.

With Norwich and Newcastle seemingly unable to keep clean sheets, Sunderland's resilience at the back could prove to be the difference between the three.

Wahbi Khazri shows why he kept his place in the side

After Duncan Watmore's impact at Carrow Road last week, there were question marks over Khazri's position in the starting 11, however Big Sam stuck with the Tunisian and he proved why his manager was right not to drop him with a hard-working display.

The 25-year old was the best player on the pitch for his side as he ensured Arsenal had no time on the ball, forcing mistakes from the Gunners on several occasions that led to opportunities for his side.

He will hope that he can add to his tally of one goal and one assist before the end of the season, and if he performs as he did today for the four remaining matches, he has a strong chance of doing just that.

Khazri showed a fantastic work ethic over the course of 90 minutes. (Photo: Sunderland AFC)
Khazri showed a fantastic work ethic over the course of 90 minutes. (Photo: Sunderland AFC)

Yann M'Vila showing signs of fatigue?

Whether he is fatigued or has simply suffered from a dip in form, there is no doubt that M'Vila is quite the same player that we saw in the first half of the season. He certainly hasn't been overwhelmingly poor, but he has become more careless in possession and today he wanted to release the ball too quickly which led to him giving the ball away all too often.

With ready made replacements in Jack Rodwell and Sebastian Larsson on the bench, Allardyce could look to make a change in midfield and give the man on loan from Rubin Kazan a rest for at least a game.

Competition such as this is only healthy for the team and ensures the players stay on top form otherwise they risk losing their place, and perhaps M'Vila's place in the team has become too much of a certainty recently.

Sunderland surrendered possession far too easily at times - a more clinical opponent would have punished them

Over the course of the game - especially the first half - Sunderland seemed unable to complete simple ten yard passes, with balls going astray in all areas of the pitch. The Black Cats looked a little nervy during the early stages as they did against Norwich last week, and they need to stamp this out in future as a team that comes out of the blocks quickly will take full advantage.

Thankfully for Allardyce, Arsenal were largely non-threatening in possession as they lacked any real cutting edge and were content to pass sideways and backwards in the middle third.

Starting with the trip to Stoke next week, the Sunderland boss needs to ensure that his players get the basics right in possession, as they were lucky to get away with it today and said luck will eventually run out.

Two wins should be the aim from final four games

Although all four games need to be seen as winnable for a team in a relegation fight, you would think that two wins will see Sunderland through to another season of Premier League football thanks to their superior goal difference.

Newcastle have winnable games against Crystal Palace and the already relegated Aston Villa in addition to their final game against Tottenham, whereas Norwich face tougher opposition in the form Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton and Watford.

The Black Cats must ensure that their game in hand over the Magpies is turned into three points if they are to stand the best chance of survival. With Sunderland currently in pole position to secure Premier League football for another season however, it is very much in their own hands.