Arsenal v Sunderland – Match Preview

Sunderland make the long trip south to take on Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium with both sides once again trying to give their flagging seasons a much needed kickstart.

The Gunners have self destructed numerous times already this season leaving fans up and down the country open mouthed at their dismal form. Seven points from their opening seven games represents their worst start in 37 years with Arsene Wenger’s unable to get his side into a stable rhythm. They sit only a point and a place above the Black Cats in 15th and need to start winning games if they are to qualify for Europe next season. It won’t happen unless Wenger sorts out his frail defence which continues to disintegrate when placed under pressure. Summer signing Per Mertesacker has struggled to adapt to the pace and physical nature of the English game with his weaknesses plain to see in the humiliating defeat to Tottenham in the North London derby a fortnight ago. The back line was weakened further after Bacary Sagna broke his leg and was ruled out until the new year.  Going forward isn’t the problem with captain Robin Van Persie as potent as ever whilst Mikel Arteta as slotted in and replaced Cesc Fabregas with ease. The Spaniard has has been a creative spark in the Gunners midfield and his work with Van Persie has encouraged the Emirates fans. A win should be a mere formality on Sunday as they are unbeaten at home against Sunderland since 1983.

Steve Bruces side have failed to win in North London since picking up a 2-1 win 28 years ago at Highbury and will be hoping his side can take advantage of Arsenal’s feeble defence and improve on their worst start to a season since 2005 which ended in relegation. The Black Cats boss has been under constant scrutiny all season with his side only managing one so far which came in the form of a 4-0 thrashing against Stoke. A summer of intense transfer activity hasn’t paid off with his Bruce’s new recruits failing to gel thus far. There has been flashes that they might be a force to reckoned with later in the season but mistakes are costing them dear and they need to cut them out if they are finish in the top half. Stephane Sessegnon needs to up his level of consistency and be Sunderland’s creative hub whilst Craig Gardner needs to start gambling more often and get himself into the penalty area. The loss of Niall Quinn as chairman has also kept the dark cloud hovering over Wearside and only a win will help the sun shine though and offer Bruce some much needed respite. It’ll be a tough ask at the Emirates though especially without on-loan Nicklas Bendtner who scored his first goal against West Brom in their last game but is unable to play against his parent club. His absence could see youngster Connor Wickham step into the fold and make his first top flight start.

Key Players

Robin Van Persie – Who else for the Gunners with the Dutchman in great scoring form despite the clubs poor start to the season. after reaching 100 goals at home to Bolton last month he will be ravenous to hit the net again having failed to convert a number of chances against against Spurs two weeks ago.

Stephane Sessegnon – Infuriatingly inconsistent since his arrival from PSG he is still a vital cog in the Sunderland attack. His pace and skill can unsettle even the best of defences. Bruce will be relying on him to shoulder the majority of the attacking burden in the absence of Bendtner.

Verdict: 2-0

  • Transfer rumours surround van Persie at present, and the Dutch striker has been doing all he can to lift the Gunner with three goals from 30 attempts at goal, including an impressive 63% on target
  • Van Persie has also contributed an assist, meaning he has had a hand in 4 out of Arsenal’s 10 goals so far in the Barclays Premier League
  • Midfielder Sebastian Larsson is Sunderland’s top ranked player in the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index in 31st place having scored twice and also won 82% of tackles attempted and delivered 18 crosses into the box
  • Wes Brown is also ranked above Arsenal’s top ranked player in 47th place. The former United defender has been relishing regular first team football under Steve Bruce and won 83% of tackles attempted this season adding 14 clearances and 9 blocks