Arsenal travel to the Stadium of Light later today, as the Gunners look to pile the misery on Sunderland who were battered 0-8 by a spirited Southampton side last weekend. However, this game, on the pitch, is going to be a lot more competitive than anticipated, as the visitors aren’t in the best of form either, and lack options when tested.
The Black Cats, under Gus Poyet, are (were?) a very good side, and this home game against Arsenal gives them a chance to rectify their 8-0 reverse, thereby reminding other clubs in the English top flight that they are no punch bags. Having said that, what kind of a game does Arsenal have in store against the Black Cats?
Arsenal will have their task cut out against Sunderland who, at home, aren’t going to let the Gunners runaway with it. Danny Welbeck has been impressive, and this is the kind of game where the Englishman needs to stand up, and put away every little chance that comes his way. Playing against small sides, your No.9 has got to stand up, and do their primary job of finding the back of the net. Otherwise, it’s going to be a struggle for the whole side.
The visitors are bound to enjoy plenty of possession, but it will, as always, come down to how effective they can be when in possession of the ball. Sunderland could well park the bus, and challenge Arsenal to break through the double-layered defensive line, which is where the Gunners’ mental strength could be tested.
Aaron Ramsey, if he starts for Arsenal, will be of significant boost to the visitors, as the Welshman has been their conjurer in the last couple of seasons. Ramsey has the panache, and maturity to keep the Arsenal machine running smoothly, even when the chips are down. The Welshman works hard for the team, and won’t hesitate to cover 60-70 yards to render Arsenal the defensive cover that they would need, without Laurent Koscielny in there, alongside Mertesacker. With Santi Cazorla struggling to find his best form, Arsenal lacked incision in the midfield, which is why they struggled against Hull City last weekend. Ramsey, with his calming influence on Arsenal, can get them playing better than they have.
This isn’t going to be a huge tactical battle, with both sides playing to rectify what have been unimpressive starts to their respective campaigns. The game could be decided on whether or not Arsenal can take control of proceedings, run the show, be patient for an opening, and then see it out. Finally, this will be a test of Arsenal’s mental strength, and their ability to play like a big team.