Sunderland vs Arsenal
Feb 9, 2013 at 3pm (UK)
Stadium of Lights
Premier league action resumes today after mini a interlull with the International friendlies during midweek and the Gunners will travel to the Stadium of Lights with a fond memory of a certain Thierry Henry who scored the winning goal last time around. Arsenal are currently 4 points adrift of Spurs, who are sitting in the last champions league qualification spot with Everton holding on to their 1 point lead in the 5th place.
Arsenal go in to the match on the back of a grueling 1-0 victory over Stoke City last week, while the Black Cats will be hoping to recover from a 2-1 defeat suffered at the hands of Reading, thanks to last ditch goal from Jimmy Kebe. However, Martin O’Neill’s men are quite difficult to break down in the home turf and they have managed to avoid losses in their last two home fixtures.
Martin O’Neill in is interview said:
“We had a rather stodgy game against Swansea and then I was hoping we could put that out of our minds and go on to win at Reading. A draw would have been a fair enough result but we were very disappointed to lose the game late on. It’s important to try to get back to winning ways because we had been on a good run. Arsenal have seen the emergence of one or two younger players and, especially going forward, they are absolutely excellent. I think they’re a fine side.”
Team News and Injury News
International friendlies have never been a real friend for Arsenal fans and this time around they will have to wait nervously until the late physical test for Laurent Koscielny who is a doubt for tonight’s game after picking up a knock during France’s match on Wednesday adding pressure to the back-line which is already missing Thomas Vermaelen.
Arsene Wenger will welcome back Theo Walcott who missed the Stoke game last week and Wilshere will return to the Arsenal squad after his heroics against Brazil which helped the Three Lions to a 2-1 victory. Podolski, Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna also return to the squad unscratched and will take up their respective positions. If Koscielny do fail the fitness test, then it leaves Wenger no choice but to call up 4th choice center back Sebastien Squillaci or youngster Ignasi Miquel to the starting line-up.
Talking to the press in his pre-match interview Arsene Wenger heaped praises about Jack Wilshere, he said:
“You do not want to set any limit on the development of any player, especially when he plays at that level at his age. The most important thing for me will be to keep his passion for the game, and keep the attitude of wanting to become a better player. If he keeps these two ingredients that are not always easy, he can of course become a fantastic player. He is already one, but he can become one of the best in the world, yes. It is not just the physical aspect but the mental pressure every time he plays. We will have to manage him well physically to make sure he doesn’t face that burnout.”
Coming back to the injury news, Sunderland boss Martin O’Neill has his fair share of problems on the injury front as well. James McClean suffered an ankle injury while on duty with Ireland. Lee Cattermole (knee) and Carlos Cuellar (hamstring) are also questionable to feature this weekend as they recover from their injuries.
Sunderland: Mignolet; N’Diaye, Bramble, O’Shea, Colback; Rose, Gardner, Vaughan, Johnson; Fletcher, Graham
Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Diaby, Arteta, Wilshere; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Walcott; Giroud
- Arsenal have not lost to Sunderland in the league since November 2009. (1-0)
- Arsenal have not failed to score since their 2-0 defeat to Man City on January 13, 7 games ago.
- 3 Arsenal players have scored over 10 goals this season – Walcott has 18, Giroud has 14 and Podolski has 12, compared to Sunderland’s one – Steven Fletcher has 10.
- 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).
- Sunderland have only won two league games consecutively once this season – December against Southampton and Man City.
- Sunderland’s Craig Gardener is the most booked player this season, with 8 yellow cards.
- Sunderland have won just one game against a team in the top half of the table this season (W1 D5 L7).
Prediction: 2-1 win for Arsenal.