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Match Preview: Arsenal v Sunderland; EPL Match Day 8

They’re back. After two week of international work, Arsenal return to the Emirates stadium to face off against Steve Bruce’s Sunderland. Both of these teams head into week 8 of the young 2011/2012 campaign in need of a result. To say that both have completely underperformed would be a minor mistatement.

They’re back. After two week of international work, Arsenal return to the Emirates stadium to face off against Steve Bruce’s Sunderland. Both of these teams head into week 8 of the young 2011/2012 campaign in need of a result. To say that both have completely underperformed would be a minor mistatement.

Arsenal come into this match with 7 points in 7 matches. They are off to their worst start ever in the Arsene Wenger era. The simple fact of the matter is this – if they want to contend for a top 4 spot they need to string a run of results together now. They are fighting against history on this one. In the Premier League era no team with less than 8 points after 7 games has finished in the top 4, though 3 have finished in the top 5.

While the two week interlull has surely dulled some of the sting of the loss at Tottenham the end result still lingers. We have half the losses we had last season with only 7 matches down. If things don’t start turning around soon for our team, the number of losses could be the most in any recent season.

But there is hope. First, with the exception of the top 2 – those clubs from Manchester and possibly Chelsea no club is having an outstanding season. For instance should Arsenal win against Sunderland tomorrow they will catapult back into the top 10 only 5 points out of fourth. Hardly a mountain in a long drawn out season. But as I’ve said in order to mount a run, Arsenal have to string together a run of positive results in order to challenge for that spot.

Sunderland present the perefect opportunity for the Gunners to try and get back into the win column. Sunderland like Arsenal haven’t delivered as many thought they would. They’ve been even more inconsistent then the Gunners. Their team is riddled with injuries and suspensions. Nicklas Bendtner is unable to play against his loan club so Sunderland will ahve to rely on either Connor Wickham or Ji Young Won up front. Like I said a perfect team for the Gunners to get it going again.

Attackwise Arsenal aren’t without their options with Robin Van Persie enjoying his longest run of health. If Gervinho can find a deft first touch his pace and footwork might actually amount to much. For Theo Walcott, I know alot of people have been hard on the boy but frankly, he is assisting on goals and getting around defenders if he can find a shot he might actually be a full fledged threat. Right now though he has to be careful, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is showing that he has skill and talent in droves and might just be pushing Walcott out if he is not careful.

What I am plesantly surprised with is Arteta. He hasn’t really had a howler since he joined the club. He is not nor will he ever be the creative force that Cesc Fabregas was and any comparison to our former Captain is just lazy. The only comparison between the two is that each is Spanish and both went to La Maisa. What I like about Arteta’s game is the directness of his passes. Arsenal will always look to pass the ball around and keep possession but more often then not Arteta is direct in his play looking to get the ball forward rather than sideways. He isn’t going to be the creative unlocker of defences when we are faced with 10 men in the box. We lack that (until Jack is back). But he has good passing ability and has a quality shot.

The problem is as it ever was – the defence. We have to hope that Per Mertesacker finds his form and shows us why he is consistently picked for Germany. You don’t get picked repatedly for the German national side without being any good. Koscielny is back and I have to say he is someone I like. He just gets better and has a sense of the occasion.  The other thing I like about him is he may be a suitable replacement for Bacary Sagna once Vermaelen is back as a CB. Gibbs continues to grow. The big question mark is Jenkinson who while I believe he has the makings of a solid RB still shows the signs that 18 months ago he was playing non-league ball.  But if I am fair that’s a poxy criticism of him. For all the praise Smalling is getting at United, few people seem to mention that Smalling was in the boat. But what we really need to do is cut down the errors.  Yes, I know the defence is learning to gell on the fly and a string of injuries can hardly make it easy for that to happen but in order for us to improve, the team, the manager and even the fans need to believe that we are moving beyond our defencive woes.

A positive I noticed at Tottenham (if anything can be taken as a positive) was a move to man marking in set pieces. We seemed to handle play in the box better that way. It shows that we might actually be finally pulling things together there. Yeah, I know I am grasping at straws.

Anyway, its good to have football back that I can get in to. Let’s hope that it results in change I can believe in.

How the Match Should Play Out:

I think I start this section out every time saying that I expect the Gunners to come out flying. I am not so sure that is going to happen. We’ve been tenative. And think they will until the flow gets going at about the 15th minute.  Still with Gervinho and Walcott on the wings it should be a steady test for Sunderland’s defence.  In the end we still have too many options for Sunderland and will come away with the win.

Players to Watch:

Arsenal. Carl Jenkinson.  The Arsenal fan turned player has big shoes to fill in suiting up for the injured Bacary Sagna. Its hard enough playing in the EPL but playing in place of the league’s best RB is another story.

Sunderland. Sebastien Larsson. I always pick out the ex-Arsenal player but frankly he is someone I liked and had hoped we would’ve gotten for free in the summer. He is also Sunderland’s leading scorer.



Projected Lineups:

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Vermaelen (ankle), Wilshere (ankle),  Sagna (ankle)

Sunderland: Bendtner (ineligible)  Gordon (knee) Campbell (knee) Bardsley (suspended -1) Bramble (club suspension)

Leading Scorers:
Arsenal:  Van Persie 6 (3 league)

Spurs: Larsson 2 (2 league)

Last Meeting (EPL):

Arsenal: 0

Sunderland: 0

Goals For:

Arsenal (home): 1.3

Sunderland (away): 0.7

Goals Against:
Arsenal (home): 0.7

Sunderland: (away): 1

Last Five:
Arsenal: LWLWL

Sunderland: DLWLD

Goal Difference:
Arsenal: -6

Sunderland: 1

Match Official:
Referee: H Webb

Broadcast Information:
US: 0830 AM EST

UK: Sky Sports 1 1330 BST

GAMEDAY CHAT: It’s Open!!!!!!

YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 2

Sunderland: 0


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