I have been once to the Stadium of Light, back in Nov 2009. It was a miserably cold day and we got beaten by a single goal scored by Darren Bent. We did not play well, but did not deserve to lose either; often the faith of away playing teams who do not take their chances. A game best forgotten.
Today’s trip to the fine Stadium of Light (although in Newcastle the ‘L’ is pronounced as ‘Sh’) will be another big test for our team. Sunderland are positioned around mid-table and have nothing to play for anymore, other than getting above 40 points as soon as possible. So, with the visit of The Arsenal, we can expect the Black Cats to approach the game with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude, and play well above their normal level of home performances. I also expect them to get stuck in and make it a physical battle.
If we are not up for this game, we will end up dropping points; despite our fantastic record against the Black Cats. Playing an away game after an (mini) International break is also far from ideal, and I am more hoping for three points than banking on it. 😕
The BFG will have bad memories from his last trip to Sunderland, caused by the season-ending injury he obtained there about this time last year. He also played for Germany on Wednesday and fatigue might make him extra vulnerable. I will keep a close eye on Per and see how he will perform: we will need him to play at his best today.
With Vermaelen out and Koz a doubt, Arsenal have no other option than to play the BFG, and we could also see Miguel start today. Clearly, with Arsene allowing Djourou to go out on loan for the rest of the season, he must feel it is time to give Miguel more playing time, and unless Koz has recovered enough from his mid-week knock – he also started for his national team – I reckon we will start with two Spanish defenders for the first time in our history (?).
The big question is whether Jack should start again, after playing a whole match against Brazil. We cannot afford to drop points, but there is also our big match against Bayern in 10 days time. Jack fully commits himself physically and with midfielders like Gardner, Vaughan and (possibly) Cattermole, he will find strong, physical resistance, and there is not an insignificant risk of Jack picking up an injury today. Wenger will have to make a big call.
Luckily, Arteta is back and did not play mid-week, and Diaby and Rosicky are also available. So, I reckon both Santi and Jack will start on the bench today, and together with the Ox they are likely to play the last 20-25 minutes of the game, if needed.
Some games deserve a big preview, but today is all about attitude, desire, work-rate and winning the physical battle. If Arsenal put in a proper, fully committed shift our qualities should get us through. Let’s hope, our players will do us proud today.
Written by: Total Arsenal