After the midweek drama at Anderlecht, Arsenal travel to the Stadium of Light tomorrow to face Sunderland in the Premier League. The Gunners desperately need a win to keep their hopes of a title challenge alive. Last week’s 2-2 draw at home against Hull City was a poor result, and the team will be looking to rectify that. If you were interested in watching the game some tickets may still be available so it’s worth having a last minute look to find tickets to see Arsenal here.
Meanwhile, the Black Cats were demolished 8-0 by Southampton last week, in one of the most stunning results in recent memory. They will be looking to make amends for that performance in front of a partisan home crowd, and based on Arsenal’s current form we may have a torrid time trying to break down their defence.
As part of the buildup to the game, we have invited Sunderland blogger Gary from the blog We Are Wearside on to the site to share his views on the fixture. This is what he had to say.
Blog name: We Are Wearside
What led you to support your club?
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I was stuck with it really. I was born in Sunderland, my father supported Sunderland, my brothers supported Sunderland, my friends supported Sunderland. I had no chance in life! Destined to live in the vicious circle which goes something like this: hope, disaster, rebuild.
How do you feel your sides season gone so far?
It was going okay until last weekend! Before we shipped eight to Southampton we looked organised and tough to beat (evident as we only lost once in our first seven games), so confidence was quite high. Then we were humiliated at St Mary’s last week so all that good work has gone out of the window.
What are your ambitions for this season?
Realistically, especially after the last game, I think survival. Perhaps if we can string a few results together and maybe make a few good buys in January the top half could be a target, but at the moment I’d take 17th without thinking about it.
Are you looking forward to the game against Arsenal, and why/why not?
Yeah of course! What is the point in being in the Premier League if you can’t enjoy games like this? Arsenal usually play well against us and I’m pretty petrified of what response is going to come from the players after last week’s result. I know Arsenal are not firing on all cylinders at the moment so that will probably change on Saturday.
Who is your most in-form player at present?
Erm. Nobody. Steven Fletcher maybe? Only because he scored a couple against Stoke but nobody came out of the last game smelling of roses.
What threat do they pose?
If his performance against Stoke is an indication he is back to his best, Fletcher will score any decent chance he gets. Under Martin O’Neill he was excellent, always in the right place at the right time until injuries hit which up to now he hadn’t fully got over. Whether we create the chances is another question.
What are your sides strengths?
Ironically I do think we are quite organised and set up in such a manner where we are difficult to beat. Ironic, I know, after conceding eight goals but I am convinced that was a one-off. Our problem this season has been in scoring goals rather than conceding them.
I think our midfield lacks creativity. Lee Cattermole is brilliant (yes, he is!) but isn’t going to create a lot and the others Seb Larsson, Jack Rodwell and Jordi Gomez have done nothing to help in that department. Right now, we are really suffering with injuries in defence which is a concern.
Who are you most worried about facing in this Arsenal side?
Well it has to be Sanchez, doesn’t it? I’ve always thought that he is the complete footballer – pace, balance, strength, quality, everything a defender doesn’t want to come up against.
What is your favorite memory facing the Gunners?
I have to go all the way back to 2000 for that, Niall Quinn scored the winner at the Stadium of Light in a 1-0 win for us. It was an all-star Arsenal side with Henry, Viera, Bergkamp, Pires etc etc, we finished 7th that season – can’t see that happening again soon! Worth a mention was the 1-1 draw in 2010 where Cesc Fabregas scored an absolutely ridiculous goal from about 40 yards out when he charged down Anton Ferdinand’s (I think?) clearance and it bounced off him and in. Darren Bent scored the equaliser in injury time so we did have something to celebrate as well as something to laugh it.
How will your side lineup?
Gus Poyet will set us up in our usual 4-3-3 formation. We always play with advanced full backs with one of the front three being a winger, another being a wider striker to support the central striker. I expect the line up to be: Mannone; Vergini, O’Shea, Brown, van Aanholt, Cattermole, Rodwell, Larsson, Johnson, Wickham, Fletcher.
What is your predicted score?
I would be surprised if it’s another mauling but I would also be surprised if we got anything from the game so I’m going for 0-2 away win.
Massive thanks to Gary for taking the time to answer our questions. While Sunderland took a thrashing against the Saints, their defence had been tight and tough to breach in their other games. And knowing Arsenal’s problems in finding the final ball, I can see it being a very tough fixture for the Gunners tomorrow.
Hopefully our team can exploit the weaknesses exposed by Southampton, since we absolutely need the three points. With Chelsea a whopping 11 points ahead, a negative result will mean that we are out of the running after only nine games of the season. Alexis Sanchez is of course the danger man for us, and he will have a massive say in tomorrow’s result.
A 2-0 win as predicted would be a dream come true for us, but with the way our defence has leaked goals this season, a clean sheet seems unlikely. Arsenal’s past few campaigns have mirrored Sunderland’s in one respect. We have the same cycle: hope, disaster, rebuild.