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MATCH PREVIEW: Sunderland v Arsenal; A Little Too Late

If you’re an Arsenal supporter, there is good news and bad news. The good news? Everyone is getting healthy. The bad news? It doesn’t matter.

As Arsenal step on to the pitch for match day 35, there’s very little left to battle for, except that ever elusive fourth place trophy – Champion’s League Qualification. Now, if I sound a little bitter, it’s not without good reason. While, Leicester and Tottenham are getting their plaudits it’s hard not to look at the season and imagine what could’ve been.

Now, I don’t buy into the notion that title was Arsenal’s to lose. Those that follow that sentiment say the league was so poor, Arsenal should’ve won it. Well, it ignores the fact that Arsenal have been just as bad as everyone else. With one exception, their poor showing hasn’t resulted in them dropping down the table. It’s just resulted in them staying right where they are.

The thing is, before the season went to hell, many had Arsenal to win the league before everyone knew anyone would be shite. They should’ve knocked on from their FA Cup win and moved forward. Instead we’re left looking over our shoulder wondering – rather loudly – if this is the year that not only will Tottenham finish above us but will we finish outside the Champion’s League spots too?

It’s a valid question. Even though we won comfortably in the midweek, you have no idea which version of Arsenal is going to show up. Worse yet, the match they play today is against a team hungry to stave of relegation. West Brom in the midweek looked like a typical Tony Pulis side who are safe – they came with little of anything in the way of a threat.

It’s going to be different today. Sunderland fresh off a 3-0 win over Norwich are eager not to go down. Sam Alardyce would love nothing better than to stay up due to beating his old nemesis. Yes, I said nemesis. Alardyce has never been a Wenger fan because of the comparisons of Alardyce’s meager footballing ability to Wenger’s aesthetically pleasing brand of football.

Something is definitely not right in Arsenal land. The normal post-mortem blame game started in earnest weeks ago. But it will only get worse and louder if Arsenal can’t find it within themselves to beat Sunderland on the road.

Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Alexis Sanchez. He’s finally starting to look like his former self. Unfortunately, much like the return of the walking wounded, it’s a little too late.

Sunderland. Wahbi Khazri.  A goal and an assist to vanquish United. Set piece specialist. Just what we don’t need.

Probable lineups:

Probable Lineups. Lineups, Starting XI, Arsenal FC, Arsenal, AFC, Sunderland, Stadium of Light, Arsene Wenger, Sam Alardyce, You Are My Arsenal

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 Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Cazorla (knee), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee)

Sunderland: None

The Manager’s Take (Courtesy

“Between Thursday and Sunday and Wednesday and Saturday morning is exactly the same,” the manager said. “You know we played on Wednesday night at Barcelona and then on Saturday against Everton at 12.45pm.

“It’s no problem. In fact, there’s a very interesting study that has come out from Uefa that shows that the points taken by the teams three days later are not less than after four or five days. It’s the opposite and that is quite interesting.

“The study has been made in all the five best leagues in Europe. Nobody has proven that it is a disadvantage to have only three days rest. The points on average are better than after four or five days.”

“They have found a stability with him because has big experience,” Wenger said. “They have a good midfield now. They play most of the time Kirchhoff, Cattermole and M’Vila, who are quite a balanced midfield.

“Up front the have Khazri on the left, who is dangerous as well. Overall I think Allardyce has found a good balance. We are in a position where we want the three points so it should be an interesting battle.”

Match Officials:
Referee: Mike Dean (29G, 95Y, 9R)
Assistant Referees: S Long, M Salisbury
Fourth Official: M Jones

Broadcast Information:
UK: Sky Sports; 14.05 GMT

YAMA Prediction:
Sunderland 1 – 2 Arsenal

Match Facts: (Courtesy via OptaSports)

  • Sunderland have won none of their last 12 Barclays Premier League matches against Arsenal (L8 D4).
  • The Gunners are unbeaten in their last five Premier League trips to the Stadium of Light, winning the last four in a row (D1).
  • Olivier Giroud made his Premier League debut against Sunderland and has scored four goals in his last four appearances against them.
  • Aaron Ramsey has scored three goals in his last four Premier League appearances against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
  • The Black Cats have scored just eight goals in their last 16 Premier League games against the Gunners.
  • Arsenal have won just three of their last 11 Premier League away games (W3 D5 L3) after winning 10 of the previous 12 (W10 D1 L1).
  • Sunderland have won just four of their last 17 Premier League matches at the Stadium of Light (W4 D6 L7).
  • The Gunners have enjoyed two 3-1 victories against Sunderland already this season, in the league and in the FA Cup. Both games saw Joel Campbell, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud net the Gunners’ goals.
  • Sam Allardyce lost just three of the first 11 Premier League meetings with Arsene Wenger (W3 D5 L3), but has lost 11 of the last 13 (W1 D1 L11).
  • Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe has scored nine goals in his 14 Premier League appearances in 2016 so far.




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