Preview: Sunderland Looking To Gun Down Arsenal

Julian Finney

Sunderland host Arsenal this weekend hoping to get back to winning ways after last weeks dismal showing against Reading. Can they? Will they? Everything you need to make an informed decision is here in our preview!

Sunderland Team News

Danny Graham is expected to make his first Sunderland start after Martin O'Neill indicated that the former Swansea City man can form an understanding with Steven Fletcher.

Graham's inclusion is likely to shake up the composition of Sunderland's midfield, and with Seb Larsson's industry a favourable characteristic for O'Neill, Stephane Sessegnon may find himself out of the side.

Having made his return to action from the substitute's bench in the defeat to Reading, Danny Rose will be pushing for a start.

Arsenal Team News

Captain Thomas Vermaelen remains sidelined by an ankle injury, whilst fellow defender Laurent Koscielny picked up a calf injury on international duty, although it seems unlikely to keep him out.

Kieran Gibbs is also absent, meaning Nacho Monreal will continue at left-back, and Arsene Wenger has the option of including Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin - both of whom have returned to action.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Mignolet; Gardner, Bramble, O'Shea, Rose; Larsson, N'Diaye, Vaughan, Johnson; Fletcher; Graham

Arsenal: Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Ramsey, Arteta; Walcott, Wilshere, Podolski; Giroud

Key Matchup: Danny Rose Vs Theo Walcott

A tussle between two speedsters; Walcott's form has only been bettered recently by Olivier Giroud, which is likely to see the England man deployed on the right-hand side of Arsenal's attack. Rose's anticipation and speed are essential in countering such a threat, but if the Tottenham loanee is able to repel that, then Walcott is not the most adept at protecting the vulnerable Bacary Sagna at right-back. Rose's tendency to get forward and influence attacks could prove fruitful.

Recent Form: LWWDW

Loss: Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (Mata 6, Lampard pen 16; Walcott 58)

Win: Arsenal 5-1 West Ham United (Podolski 22, Giroud 47, 57, Cazorla 53, Walcott 54; Collison 18)

Win: Brighton and Hove Albion 2-3 Arsenal (Barnes 32, Ulloa 62; Giroud 16, 56, Walcott 85)

Draw: Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool (Giroud 64, Walcott 67; Suarez 5, Henderson 60)

Win: Arsenal 1-0 Stoke City (Podolski 78)

Last Time Around: Sunderland 1-2 Arsenal, 11/02/12

The last league meeting at the Stadium of Light saw Thierry Henry end his loan spell at Arsenal on a high.

After James McClean had passed the bumbling Per Mertesacker to fire home, Aaron Ramsey equalised for the visitors. And, in the final minute, Henry got the final touch to give his side all three points.

The Ref: Anthony Taylor

One of the busiest officials this season having shown five red cards, Taylor has spent the majority of this season in the Premier League.

The Manchester-based referee has overseen just one Sunderland game this season - the 3-2 win over Wigan Athletic - but the Black Cats drew both league outings with him in the middle last season, in one of which he sent Craig Gardner off.

Hopefully the home side give him no reason to influence proceedings on Saturday.

What The Managers Said

Martin O'Neill:

We need those levels of effort and application again.

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.

But it is important to try to get back to winning ways because we had been on a good run.

Arsene Wenger:

Sunderland have good offensive potential, but we have to make up ground in this game.

We are behind and we have to focus on us to win games. The gap is not too big.

Roker Report Predicts

As O'Neill said, the momentum generated with a few results took a hit last time out, but the fact that Arsenal have kept just three clean sheets on the road suggests Sunderland will have chances in this game. With that in mind, we'll go with a 1-1 draw.

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