As manager Arsene Wenger addressed the media this morning for the pre match press conference, he admitted that he expected the game against the Black Cats to be a tough fixture and that it might be tough to break them down. However, the manager also said that the players were only just finding their true form and that after the win against Anderlecht, the Gunners were ready to win in the Premier League as well.
Just last weekend, Sunderland lost 8-0 to a rampant Southampton, but Wenger was sure that the team would bounce back and defend well:
The danger is they will focus very hard on defending very well and we will get very few openings.
They are a team who is relatively consistent. They had a great finish last year. When you go to Sunderland, you always expect commitment and fight from them for 90 minutes and we have to prepare for that. The result of last week will have dropped their confidence and increased their resolve to defend well.
We focus just on our performance and we want to go on a run. Until now we have been relatively consistent in our attitude and performances, but not efficient enough defensively or offensively. We only lose two games against Dortmund and at Chelsea, but we have not been efficient enough in the other games.
Arsenal’s lack of efficiency has seen them dominate possession for long stretches, only to give the ball away cheaply and concede via a quick counterattack by the opposition. Against both Chelsea and Hull we conceded two goals, but Chelsea had just the two shots on target and Hull had three. This clearly shows that both our midfield and our defence need to step up and perform better.
That might be tough with Jack Wilshere suspended and Laurent Koscielny still out injured, but Arsenal need the win nevertheless and it is up to the remaining players to provide it. In that regard, Wenger said that the side would soon find their best form:
It [the win against Anderlecht] will help to improve confidence and I’m sure that if we focus on the performance the rest will come naturally.
It takes a long time to realise that football is about fight. I always said that you only see your true players in November.
It’s about competition – forget what you’ve done before and focus on what is in front of you. That’s the only thing you can do.
Last year we had 17 clean sheets and at the moment, we’ve only had one after eight games. We are not on the same level defensively.
It’s [about] improving by getting everybody to put a bit more effort into the defensive work. That starts not only at the back, but up front and in midfield by increasing the level of defensive activity through the team.
We have had to reshuffle the defence and [the players] getting used to playing together helps as well.
With no set date for Koscielny’s return, it looks like Monreal and Mertesacker will continue to play in central defence for the foreseeable future. Hopefully the two quickly learn from their previous mistakes and allow us to secure a win against Sunderland tomorrow.