After a return to winning ways against Reading in the EFL Cup on Tuesday, we are back to English Premier League action at bottom of the table Sunderland. We struggled the last time out against relegation battlers Middlesbrough and we take that reality check to the Stadium of Light.
- Sunderland have lost 5 of their last 6 matches in the Premier League.
- Arsenal have won their last 3 away matches in the Premier League.
- Arsenal are undefeated in their last 9 matches against Sunderland in all competitions.
- 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.
(Stats Courtesy: Soccerlens and Stats Zone)
David Moyes will be without as many as 7 first team players including captain Lee Cattermole, Adnan Januzaj, Sebastian Larsson, Jason Denayer, Fabio Borini, Jan Kirchoff and Vito Mannone.
Jermaine Defoe remains the dangerman and has been carrying Sunderland all on his own. He will get support from Duncan Watmore, Khazri and ever attacking Patrick Van Aanholt. John O’Shea should offer leadership in defence alongside Paddy McNair and Kone.
Arsenal welcome back Aaron Ramsey who will replace the injured Santi Cazorla (I feel like crying). Granit Xhaka is still suspended, Lucas Perez has a knee injury and joins Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck on the sidelines. Olivier Giroud looked sharp on his return on Tuesday and should be involved. Walcott and Monreal will have tests today to determine if they will feature.
I expect Wenger to keep the same shape with Alexis Sanchez leading the line; supported by Theo Walcott (if available) and Alex Iwobi. Mesut Ozil will be expected to improve from last week in the playmaking role. I expect Ramsey to replace Mohamed Elneny with Francis Coquelin keeping his place. The defence remains the same.
Last weekend, we were too complacent against Boro and they took advantage. They parked the bus and looked for the counter. I expect Sunderland to try the same. We were guilty of slow transition from midfield to attack last week because of the absence of Cazorla. Elneny and Coquelin passed the ball sideways a lot, unwilling to take risks and that left Ozil ineffective. With Ramsey coming in, i expect that to change. Ramsey does not have the ball passing ability of Cazorla but he can move the ball forward quicker and he is willing to take risks. We must take our chances as they come and ensure that Jermaine Defoe is effectively snuffed out of the game. Nacho Monreal must improve his awareness. He is getting weaker and this game might be his last chance to impress. We must stop the individual defensive mistakes too.
There are no easy games in the EPL anymore and playing against relegation strugglers is particularly dangerous. But we generally tend to play better away in the EPL (I can’t explain why). I believe we will return to wining ways tomorrow. 1-3 to the Arsenal