Ahead of the game against Sunderland, the Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has urged his side to be more direct and decisive in their game, labelling the home defeat to Swansea as an accident and challenging his players to redeem themselves when they welcome Sunderland to the Emirates, knowing that three points will guarantee automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League group stages.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, Wenger said: “For me the Swansea game was an accident. Having analysed it, it’s one of the games we deserved to win the most out of all the games. We lost two in two or three years now, so you can say that’s an accident.
“Sunderland need a point to be safe so I expect them to be well organised defensively, sound at the back, and to try to use all the counter-attacks they can, all the set-pieces they have, to score goals. We have to put a high rhythm into this game and play with a high level of energy to win the game.”
Keeping this in mind, there are a few things that the team really need to execute when taking to the field against Sunderland. Considering the obvious fact that Dik Advocaat’s side will try and make the maximum use of set pieces, Arsenal cannot afford to give away cheap free kicks. Since Sunderland need only a point to confirm their survival, you can expect them to come and park the bus, as pointed out by Wenger. So preferably, we will be starting with Theo on the right flank and Ramsey partnering Coquelin in midfield.
Jermain Defoe however, is the Wearsiders’ biggest threat and the former Spurs striker will be extra motivated to score against the old enemy. The Englishman has done a brilliant job since arriving in January and the Arsenal defence have to very quick in closing him down on the ball and making sure he does not drift into space unnoticed. Despite their lacklustre performances this season, this Sunderland attack is indeed capable of damage and the Gunners cannot take them lightly.
In regards to the attack, I believe Wenger got it spot on, we need to be more direct and incisive. Sunderland’s defence will be organized and well-drilled, but if Arsenal can manage an early goal, they will be forced to come out and play, which is when Arsenal can take the game away from them and book a place in next season’s Champions League.