Fan Focus: Can Sunderland Resist The Gunners' Arsenal?

Clive Mason

We caught up with LadyArse.com founder Lee Hurley to get the Arsenal perspective ahead of Saturday's clash at the Stadium of Light.

Despite an early setback with a shock defeat at home to Villa, Arsenal have made a positive start to the season in the league and in Europe. What has impressed you most about the turnaround since that opening day loss and how is it affected your feelings about the rest of the season ahead?

Lee Hurley: The most impressive thing about this Arsenal side so far this season is how hard they are working for each other all over the pitch, something that has been missing from the side for a number of years now. The opening day loss was more a blip than anything to be concerned about, one of those days when anything that could go wrong did. Arsenal have only lost one game out of their last 16 and have won four out of the five played already this season. Adding in the signing of Mesut Ozil and I'm extremely optimistic about the season ahead though also cautious about the strength in depth that we don't really have in certain positions.

The latest of those victories was against Spurs. Any derby win is a good one, but how did you rate Arsenal's performance on the day? Were they worthy winners?

LH: Arsenal put in a gritty and determined performance and while they conceded possession to Spurs in the second half they did enough defensively to deserve the result. To be honest I expected more from Spurs but with so many new players it looked as if they didn't really understand what the match meant to the fans.

Speaking of Spurs, by selling Bale to Real Madrid it opened the door for Wenger to finally land a marquee summer signing; how excited are you by the arrival of Ozil?

LH: I don't think I could adequately explain how excited Arsenal fans are to have signed Mesut Ozil. The signing, as well as meaning we have one of the best players in the world at the club, means so much more than that. It is like a corner has finally been turned and the restrictions which have been in place since the stadium build have finally been lifted. He will hopefully also be the signing which makes Arsenal attractive again to other top names. The euphoria of signing him shows no signs of dying down any time soon.

Is the German international likely to start this weekend? If so, is he the player Sunderland fans should be most worried about or is someone else likely to shine for the Gunners?

LH: We would have said he was likely to be on the bench this weekend but the injury picked up by Tomas Rosicky while playing for the Czech Republic on Tuesday night means he could very well start. With Ozil I think any team should be worried but Santi Cazorla is equally as dangerous and Olivier Giroud is in great form.

Ozil aside, it has been a seemingly frustrating summer for Wenger in the transfer market, with a number of high profile targets ending up elsewhere in Europe. Is that a fair perception and how happy are you with the summer dealings as a whole?

LH: Once Ozil was signed any unhappiness we had about other signings faded. There was much annoyance over the club's withdrawal from trying to sign Gonzalo Higuain in order to chase Luis Suarez but if reports are to be believed, Real Madrid rejected offers for Ozil in order to allow Arsenal to sign him after they acknowledged they had moved the goalposts over Higuain. We are still light at the back and up front and those positions could have been strengthened, but overall I think it was far better than we were expecting as deadline day loomed.

Conversely, Sunderland have brought in a plethora of new faces, but have started the season in poor form. Is there anyone in Di Canio's squad you fear can hurt Arsenal?

LH: Sunderland always pose a threat to us when we travel there and we always find your side hard to break down. That being said, many Arsenal fans are hopeful it won't be quite as physical now as it has been in recent years. Former Arsenal player Sebastian Larsson is always a threat with his set-pieces and delivery in to the box while Fletcher is always a danger, even when trying to get back to full fitness.

There has been a lot of press about Di Canio of late, after his public berating of John O'Shea. What is your opinion of him?

Di Canio is a character, for sure. Is it wise for him to speak out about players in the manner he did? Only he will know by the reaction from the players in the dressing room and on the pitch. I like him but I don't think I'd want him managing my club.

Any thoughts on your own, long serving manager Arsene Wenger?

LH: I'm a massive Arsene Wenger fan and while I admit that he makes mistakes there has been a lot more going on at Arsenal than we have been privy to. He's had to cope, post stadium move, with no transfer budget and top names wanting to leave as they did not have the patience the club were asking for. I genuinely don't know another manager who could have kept the club in the top four under the circumstances he's had to operate in over the past eight years.

Although Arsenal have won back to back league games on Wearside in the last two seasons, they also suffered defeat in the FA Cup at the Stadium of Light in between. Generally speaking, do you consider this to be a tough away day for the Gunners?

LH: I certainly do. As I mentioned, Sunderland have always proven a hard side for us to break down, and in recent years we've perhaps lacked the creativity to find a way through. Hopefully now with Cazorla, Wilshere and Ozil we can put an end to that but this is never a game Arsenal fans look forward to and are always grateful if we can get a result.

And with that in mind, what do you predict the result of Saturday's game will be?

LH: I'm useless at predictions but I fancy a 2-0 or a 2-1. A lot will depend on how tired our players are after the international matches and how you respond to your start of the season.

Thanks go to Lee for giving us the lowdown on Arsenal prior to this weekend's game. Be sure to check out @LadyArse and LadyArse.com for more Arsenal related content from Lee and the rest of the LadyArse team.

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