The Gunners have no room for error now as they try to gain ground on North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur who find themselves four points ahead of Arsenal in fourth. Their opponents this game-week, Sunderland, are in a similar boat to Arsenal having had a season of ups-and-downs. Each teams mixed form should make for a somewhat unpredictable match.
In terms of team news, Arsene Wenger has revealed that Arsenal have a mini-dilemma at the back with Kieran Gibbs and Thomas Vermaelen ruled out through injury while Frenchman Laurent Koscielny is in doubt following an injury he picked up on international duty. If Koscielny is deemed fit expect the Frenchman to simply slot in for Vermaelen, although if unfit Wenger may need to shift around the back-line with Ignasi Miquel, Sebastian Squillaci and Carl Jenkinson available for selection.
Despite Walcott being involved in a heavy clash with Brazil keeper Julio Caeser in midweek, the Englishman is expected to make a return for the Gunners and will most likely start on the right with Giroud spearheading through the middle, given the Frenchman’s rich vein of form.
Clearly Arsenal are the favourites going into the match and signs are very encouraging with Wilshere producing a excellent performance in midweek. The young Englishman has been Arsenal’s talisman since his successful return and will be expected the drive Arsenal in midfield with the talented Spaniard Cazorla operating in front of him.
In saying this however, Arsenal are likely to be more open at the back following the need for Wenger to rotate the back-line to some degree, this is particularly true if Koscielny is unavailable for selection. Despite both teams going through a period of indifferent form, expect there to be goals, but Arsenal to put more in the back of the net!
on Kieran Gibbs…
Kieran is a few more weeks away. Still four to six weeks really.
on Laurent Koscielny and Thomas Vermaelen…
Koscielny had a scan that was quite reassuring so he will have a test today [Friday]. It is a calf problem. Vermaelen is out with his ankle injury.
on defensive options…
The options are restricted, I will have to be creative. We have Iggy Miquel, we have Sagna who can play there and Jenkinson on the right, so we will see. But we have very good hope that Koscielny will be available.
on Francis Coquelin and Aaron Ramsey…
Francis still has a little pain at the back of his hamstring. I don’t think he will be with us on Saturday but I’ll have to check that today [Friday]. Aaron Ramsey is OK.
Gervinho has arrived back [from the Africa Cup of Nations] on Friday but he is not in the squad for Sunderland. We have given him five days off.
Sagna Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal
Arteta (c) Wilshere
- The Gunners have lost just one of their last nine trips to the north east in the Premier League (W3 D5 L1).
- Arsenal have won 10 and lost just one of their last 18 Premier League games against Sunderland, but they did lose in last season’s FA Cup against the Wearsiders at the Stadium of Light.
- Arsenal have conceded 62% of their goals in the first half of games – a league high proportion – and conceded fewer in total after the break than any other team (11).
- Arsenal’s attack has considerably improved. In the reverse fixture earlier this season just three of Arsenal’s 23 attempts at goal were on target as they drew 0-0.
- Their defence however have been incredibly inconsistent have made 13 errors leading to a goal in the Premier League this season; more than any other team in the league.
- Lukas Podolski has been at the forefront of this improvement as he has been involved in 10 goals in his last eight Premier League appearances for Arsenal (four goals, six assists).
- Per Mertesacker injured his ankle ligaments on Sunderland’s poor pitch in this fixture last season and the Black Cats took advantage to open the scoring in a 1-2 defeat to the Gunners. He consequently missed the rest of the season.
Sunderland 0 Arsenal 2