7 points were dropped out of a possible 9 and is if that wasn’t worrying enough, there have been 5 injuries in the last two Premier League matches alone, the fate of three of them is yet to be known. Could there have been a worse possible month? You bet not. Being in such a scenario, Arsenal welcome the Black Cats from Wearside in a match that demands an Arsenal win.
“If you want to blame me for injuries, I have no problem with it” is what Wenger said in the pre-match press conference, of Alexis Sanchez’s injury. The Chilean star limped off the match against Norwich, a match in which the fans did not want him to play considering that he was already carrying a hamstring injury and their fear turned into reality, when he came off after 60 minutes with the complaint of a hamstring pull. However it would be very harsh to blame the Frenchman for this, as all the tests before the match indicated that Alexis was fit to start and needless to say, he was craving to be out there that left Arsene with no other choice but to play him.
Adding salt to the wounds, Spanish play-maker Santi Cazorla, though lasted 90 minutes, finished the match with one foot as he ruptured his left knee in a fifty-fifty for the ball. He might as well miss out on the next three months of action. The returns of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to action, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott to the match-day squad cannot be welcomed more.
Being 2 points off the relegation zone, Sunderland will be more than happy to take anything away from Emirates Stadium and looking at Arsenal’s form and injury list, they will fancy their chances. Under Dick Advocaat and against an Arsenal team that was in a similar form as it is now, Sunderland managed to hold the Gunners to a goalless draw in the penultimate fixture of last season. A point that helped them clinch safety.
The situation for them isn’t as critical this season, however they won’t let this opportunity slip. History is very much on their side if it is a draw that they are looking for, because 4 of their last 7 matches at the Emirates have ended in a goalless draw. Arsenal have lost only one of the last 23 top flight clashes with the Black Cats. Decent record, but that is not gonna help them in any way, especially with their injury concerns.
Unless there is a plot twist, Sunderland will be happy to concede possession to the Gunners and will look to hit them back on the counter. The North Londoners have of late lacked the cutting edge from open play, and they have had to thank Mesut Ozil’s pin-point set pieces and crosses, combined with Giroud’s heading abilities for most of the goals they have scored so far in the injury period.
The German World Cup winner has had a hand in no less than 13 goals in the last 12 matches, racking up 11 assists in that period, and Arsenal will mostly bank on their number 10 again to provide any sort of cutting edge in a bid to break up a Sunderland defense that the Big Sam will hope to be organised and tight.
With Leicester and Manchester City travelling to the Liberty and Britannia respectively, and Manchester United facing West Ham, Arsenal will see this as an opportunity to get back to the top of the table, and the points will be much-needed for, the relative ease of the opposition and the fact that it is at home demand a win.