For what feels like the first time in a while Sunderland are facing a side that nobody expects us to take anything from, which in my opinion is welcome following a spell of mentally grueling games for Sam Allardyce's team.
As great as Leicester have been this season I felt we had the quality to take at least a point from them and our frailties at the back cost us once again. Then, away at Norwich, we looked like a proper team and it will be interesting to see if we are able to put together back-to-back wins yet again - doing so would make us huge favourites to survive ahead of Norwich and Newcastle, regardless of their results this weekend.
Arsenal looked very comfortable in beating West Brom yesterday night but it was to be expected, considering the fact that Tony Pulis' side have nothing left to play for, and you'd like to hope that coming to the Stadium of Light on Sunday will be a far more daunting prospect for Arsene Wenger's side. We may well be happy with taking a point from this game but with time running out to get out of the relegation zone we really need to keep winning football matches, regardless of the quality of our opposition.
Fabio Borini, Vito Mannone and Lee Cattermole have all struggled for much of this season so it was nice to see all three play particularly well last weekend. The added bonus last week was that Jermain Defoe continues to score important goals from limited chances for us, and with Duncan Watmore back in the fold following injury we now have an option from the bench that can change a game for us, so Sam Allardyce may well be quietly confident that his side can achieve something against Arsenal.
Kick Off: Sunday 24 April 2016
Venue: Stadium Of Light, Sunderland, Tyne & Wear
Last Season: Sunderland 0 - 2 Arsenal
Odds: H 15/4 D 11/4 A 3/4
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: S Long & M Salisbury
Fourth Official: M Jones
Fabio Borini, Jack Rodwell and Jeremain Lens have all recovered well from slight knocks and are available to take part, meaning Sam Allardyce has a fully fit squad to select from. There will be a few disappointed players when the team is announced, but such is life.
Having won with ease away at Norwich last week it's expected that Sam will name an unchanged side, although there have been calls to restore Duncan Watmore to the side in place of Wahbi Khazri, whom he replaced at half time at Carrow Road before going on to score late in the game.
Jack Wilshere is available for selection for the first time this season following his recovery from a broken leg, and the player is expected to be named amongst the substitutes for Arsene Wenger's side.
Having won at a canter yesterday evening against West Brom it will be interesting to see whether or not Wenger decides to change his side - sadly for Sunderland, the in-form Alexis Sanchez is likely to be the first name on the team sheet, and keeping him quiet is ultimately the key to stopping Arsenal from scoring goals, such is the influence that he has.
Sunderland - DDDDLW
16 Apr 2016 - Norwich City 0-3 Sunderland
10 Apr 2016 - Sunderland 0-2 Leicester City
02 Apr 2016 - Sunderland 0-0 West Bromwich Albion
20 Mar 2016 - Newcastle United 1-1 Sunderland
05 Mar 2016 - Southampton 1-1 Sunderland
01 Mar 2016 - Sunderland 2-2 Crystal Palace
Arsenal - DWWDDW
21 Apr 2016 - Arsenal 2-0 West Bromwich Albion
17 Apr 2016 - Arsenal 1-1 Crystal Palace
09 Apr 2016 - West Ham United 3-3 Arsenal
02 Apr 2016 - Arsenal 4-0 Watford
19 Mar 2016 - Everton 0-2 Arsenal
05 Mar 2016 - Tottenham Hotspur 2-2 Arsenal
It's no secret to anybody that we have some of the finest and most dedicated fans in the country.
I can't put into words my gratitude for the support that those people have shown us.
Wilshere has absorbed well his first obstacle.That means get games and finally get 90 minutes. The positive is that he had no setbacks.
In every game he was sharper, he has a good fitness basis. The progression now should be normal and he is available for selection from the next game (Sunderland) onwards.
This week we spoke to Lewis Ambrose from Arsenal fan site Daily Cannon, and he had this to say when asked about who he fears going into Sunday's game:
Sorry to be boring but I guess it has to be Defoe. Incredibly he's only ever scored twice against us but, cliché as it sounds, he just knows where the goal is. Jan Kirchhoff was a very impressive signing and has looked good to me since his horror debut.
Blast From The Past
Head To Head
05 Dec 2015 - Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland
20 May 2015 - Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland
25 Oct 2014 - Sunderland 0-2 Arsenal
22 Feb 2014 - Arsenal 4-1 Sunderland
14 Sep 2013 - Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal
09 Feb 2013 - Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal
I'm going for a score draw, and if I'm honest I'd be fairly happy to take away a point from this game. Although Arsenal aren't particularly brilliant away from home - and they struggle to keep clean sheets on the road, too - they aren't mugs either, so we have to remain realistic. When I look at our remaining games we're probably going to need to take at least four points from the games against Arsenal and Chelsea, so who knows.
I'm going for a 1-1 draw, and I fancy Jermain Defoe to bag one for us.
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