Match Preview: Sunderland v Arsenal; Avoiding A Banana Peel
Arsenal face against Sunderland in a match that on paper looks an easy one for the Gunners to walk away with but as last week versus Middlesbrough showed, even the easy ones can be a hard nut to crack.
Sunderland are a team in disarray. They sit at the bottom of the league and look a sure fire bet to drop down. Currently 7 of their first team starters are injured and David Moyes looks devoid of any idea how to arrest the freefall the black cats seem to be in.
Arsenal have some minor injury issues but for the most part come in with the majority of the squad rested during the week. While Oliver GIroud and Aaron Ramsey could feature on the bench, there are question marks about the availability of Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Nacho Monreal.
The Gunners were frustrated last week against Boro. They were a team with their backs against the wall and they may feel hard done that they didn’t come out with a more positive result. The lesson to learn is that as much as Boro looked a wreck last week, they came to play and surprised Arsenal.
David Moyes’ charges come in to the match needing something anything to create a positive undercurrent in the club. They’ll likely view scalping Arsenal as prime opportunity to do it. But they have problems – and they just aren’t the injuries.
They’ve played 4 matches at home and have only managed to draw one. In those four home matches Sunderland have managed 4 goals while conceding 9. The problems though go even deeper. It only took until the 2nd match of the season for David Moyes to declare that Sunderland were in a relegation scrap.
Contrast all that to Arsenal who since the opening day loss to Liverpool have looked resurgent and brought themselves into the early mix for the title chase. Even with the draw to Boro they remain level on points with table-toppers Manchester City with only goal differential separating the two.
Whereas everything is doom and gloom at the Stadium of Light, the visitors are still buoyant with Arsene Wenger saying he feels he has his most complete squad in recent history. The squad is deep and even the second XI look fantastic when playing.
They key will be for Arsenal to stay healthy. The fact that Giroud and Ramsey are back is offset by the knowledge the Lucas Perez goes off with an injury likely to keep him out for 6-8 weeks. Additionally, you always take notice when any Arsenal player suffers from a little niggle.
The feeling around the Gunners is markedly different than it was this summer. The acrimony that existed and was rather loud has been pushed to underneath the surface as Arsenal look more enjoyable to watch than any team since the 07/08 title collapsing team.
Arsenal can ill afford to look past Sunderland and give them a modicum of hope. They need to get out on top of them quickly and never let up. Goal differential is going to be important this year. This isn’t youth soccer and we need as many goals as we can to keep separation from some teams.
With Sunderland in disarray, now is the time for Arsenal to show a ruthless streak and put the bottom dwellers to the sword – emphatically.
Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Mohamed Elneny. With Santi Cazorla likely to miss the match, Elneny needs to become the catalyst for starting Arsenal’s attacks from deep. While he can stabilize the midfield, it remains to be seen if he can offer Arsenal the same engine going forward the Spanish start does.
Sunderland. Jermaine Defoe. He’s ex-Spurs and he likes scoring. Let’s hope we keep him off the score sheet.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Ramsey (match fitness), Mertesacker (knee), Welbeck (knee), Xhaka (Suspeneded 3 of 3), Cazorla (achilles), Perez (ankle)
Sunderland: Januzaj (ankle), Mannone (elbow), Kirchhoff (hamstring), Borini (groin), Cattermole (back), Denayer (groin), Larsson (knee)
Goals Scored Per Game:
Goals Conceded Per Game:
From the Manager: (Courtesy Arsenal.com)
“We have a good solidarity, we play away from home with a full desire to win the games and we’ve improved our defensive quality as well,” said the boss. “But it’s in question every time – we have a tricky early game tomorrow and we have to be inspired by what we have realised until now, and continue to improve.
“The pressure is on every week on everybody. It is very tight at the top – two points difference between five teams – so every game of course becomes important.
“On the other hand, you have not to be fooled – you win the games when the performances are good, so let’s focus on what is important, which is the quality of our performance. Last week we had 75 per cent of the ball and could not score so we know we need to use the ball better, in a more efficient way.”
Sunderland are bottom of the Premier League but a trip to the Stadium of Light is never easy – especially with the evergreen Jermain Defoe in the Black Cats’ attack.
“Honestly, you have to admire Defoe for what he has done,” said Wenger. “You think when a guy like him at his age moves to the United States that it was the end for him in the Premier League but he came back, had a huge impact and certainly it is down to him that Sunderland stayed in the league last year.
“There must be a big passion behind that. I don’t know [Defoe] well but he is absolutely amazing.
“Their main danger is Defoe but they are good on set-pieces with Khazri, and they have Kone and O’Shea who are dangerous on set-pieces as well. They are a team who are in a bad position at the moment, but it’s early in the season. It’s very tight at the top and very tight at the bottom as well, so there are no differences anywhere.”
Referee: Martin Atkinson (8M, 25Y, 1R)
Assistants: S Child, S Burt
Fourth official: C Pawson
UK: Sky Sports/Arsenal.com (audio) 12.30 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network, 7:30AM EST
Arsenal 3 – 0 Sunderland
Match Facts: (Courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta Sports)
- Sunderland have won just one of their last 25 Premier League matches against Arsenal, a 1-0 win for Steve Bruce’s side in November 2009 (D9 L15).
- Arsenal have conceded just eight times in 15 visits to Sunderland in the Premier League (inc one game at Roker Park). The Gunners have kept a clean sheet in three of their last four at the Stadium of Light.