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Looking Ahead At Arsenal: Must Win Or Must Not Lose?

Lets be honest, we'd all probably take a point right now from Sunday's game with Arsenal if it was offered, but is it enough, and, are Arsene Wenger's men there for the taking?

Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Since the start of November, Arsenal have won three of their eleven league games away from home. For a team chasing down a league title, that has not been good enough, and despite their relatively strong home form it is their results on the road that can be used as an example of why they've been outside of the chasing pack when it comes to the Premier League title since the turn of the year.

That said, it often means nothing when a team turns up at Sunderland.

I watched Arsenal against Crystal Palace at the weekend and they were disappointing, as they were the week before when they threw away a two-nil lead against West Ham, shipping three Andy Carroll goals and going on to draw the match 3-3. They are clearly brilliant, but they don't have the heart or the defensive resilience that Spurs and Leicester above them have which is why they struggle to keep clean sheets.

One thing we have been capable of this season is scoring goals - at the weekend we had Fabio Borini to thank for much of our good attacking play and, as I mentioned yesterday in Quick Kicks, it felt as though Fabio finally realised his role in the team against Norwich and as a result he was much more influential than he has been for some time. His cross from the right wing was inch perfect for Jermain Defoe's goal, and he showed that if he concentrates on being a creative influence and less of a striker when in the final third, he's far more valuable to the team.

Jermain Defoe has sorely lacked support up front at times this season and it was refreshing to see Duncan Watmore and Fabio Borini busting a gut to get forward when they could against Norwich.

The game against Arsenal is a completely different prospect to the win at Carrow Road - Norwich are struggling, and it showed with their complete lack of quality at the back. Arsenal are going to come and control the tempo, and with the space our defenders leave in behind we need to stay switched on.


Even though we're the home team we'll probably be sitting deep and defending for the majority of the game due to the way that Arsenal play, and I just hope that the crowd don't become restless when we're spending large periods of the game without the ball. I hate seeing us sit back but we have to understand just who we are playing, and what Sam will be looking to do - it's just not in Sam's make up to go at teams, especially sides as good as Arsenal.

Which makes me wonder - will Sam be happy with a point?

I certainly would be. Arsenal need to win in order to pull away from Manchester United and we'd be foolish to think that Arsene Wenger won't be coming here for anything less than three points.

A lot depends on just how well Newcastle do in their next two fixtures, considering they play twice before we kick another ball. I'm crossing every finger and toe that they get trounced off Manchester City tonight and then again against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday, but the way the Premier League has gone this season it honestly wouldn't surprise me if the lucky bastards won both. Being serious though, they're facing top opposition and both Manchester City and Liverpool have been in decent form in recent weeks, so a betting man would probably go with Newcastle losing both games.

If Newcastle perform a miracle and are six points better off by the time we come to kick off against Arsenal, then we might well have no choice but to go at Arsenal and play more positively. Much can change between now and then.

For me it's important we focus on the huge positives from the Norwich victory - we scored three goals, Lee Cattermole was sensational, Duncan Watmore made a goalscoring return, Fabio Borini finally looked like a proper wide-man, Jermain Defoe scored again, we kept a clean sheet, Vito Mannone had his best game in ages and, above all else, we looked a proper team, playing for each other.

It's still in our hands, regardless. That game in hand we have might be our golden ticket to survival, but when you assess the teams that we have left to play I think it's fair to say we're going to have to beat someone decent - one of Chelsea or Arsenal - if we're going to be comfortably safe before the last day of the season. Why not start this weekend?

Fear no one.

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