Sunderland must be wondering what they’ve got to do to catch a break this season, because a team unbeaten in 13 games is the last thing they want to welcome.
Arsenal are riding high in the Premier League and after last weekends disappointing 0-0 draw will be keen to give themselves a boost when travelling to a side bottom of the table.
David Moyes’ men haven’t had much to cheer about so far, and having picked up just two points from nine games are beginning to run out of reasons to feel sorry for them.
Mid-week gave the Black Cats a chance to experiment with the side as they took the long trip down to Southampton, but further frustration led to a 1-0 loss with Moyes getting sent off in the process.
They’re in desperate need of something to get excited about, but with a mini injury crisis and Arsenal’s stunning form to deal with things have just got ten times harder.
It’s been a week of highs and lows for in terms of injury news, with Wenger now ready to welcome Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud back into the picture.
There’s a chance Giroud could start in the centre forward role as Arsenal begin to try something different having had their ‘Alexis at CF’ setup sussed out by Boro last weekend.
The tackle that forced Lucas Perez off during the Reading game has forced the Spaniard out until at least six weeks time, meaning a Christmas comeback is now in his sights.
There will be late fitness tests on Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Nacho Monreal but Wenger has plenty of replacements on hand to come straight into the side.
Cazorla took part in full training on Friday, and with Xhaka still suspended we could be seeing the likes of Elneny and Coquelin in the CDM role again.
Arsenal Absentees: D. Welbeck (knee), P. Mertesacker (knee), G. Xhaka (suspended), L. Perez (ankle)
Jermaine Defoe is set to start this one having made an appearance from the bench in mid-week, the veteran will come in to lead an attack that has found the net just six times.
Former United midfielder Adnan Januzaj has a decent chance of featuring after shaking off an injury, he’ll have a late check to determine whether or not he starts.
The experienced duo of Seb Larsson and Lee Cattermole will be sidelined alongside former Gunner Vito Mannone, who will sit out for Jordan Pickford.
Sunderland Absentees: F. Borini (groin), L. Cattermole (back), J. Dennayer (thigh), J. Kirchhoff (hamstring), S. Larsson (knock), V. Mannone (arm)
One’s To Watch
Arsenal – Alexis Sanchez
Despite the midfield concerns surrounding Cazorla and Walcott, there’s no doubt that this man is going to be in the starting XI and I’d love to see him come alive away from the Emirates.
I have a feeling Giroud could start this one meaning Alexis gets shifted back to the left wing and allowing Iwobi to cover for Walcott who could be rested as a precaution.
Wherever he starts we know he’s capable, but what we need to see from Alexis is that he’s capable of doing it week in, week out and picking up goals from nowhere.
He’s keeping big players out of the side because of his form at CF, but as teams cotton on to dealing with him there needs to be a constant adaptation of his game to ensure he doesn’t become predictable.
Sunderland – Jermaine Defoe
Arguably the man who ensured Sunderland were playing Premier League football this year, Defoe has been handed his biggest challenge yet to fire this team into survival.
He’s already bagged four goals in the league this season but that hasn’t helped the team to a single win yet, they remain on two draws and seven losses which isn’t appealing to any football fan.
Defoe will be left to fight on his own up top against two of the most in-form defenders in the country, so he’ll need to have the game of his life to cause any real trouble.
We know what playing Arsenal means to him so he’ll be up for this one, and if given half a chance he’ll be ready to take on Petr Cech who has looked unprepared at times.
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Gibbs, Coquelin, Cazorla, The Ox, Ozil, Iwobi, Alexis
Sunderland (4-5-1): Pickford, Manquillo, O’Shea, Kone, Van Aanholt, Watmore, Rodwell, N’Dong, Pienarr, Khazri, Defoe
Prediction: Sunderland 0 – 3 Arsenal
I predicted Arsenal to draw against Middlesbrough last week because a point away from home would’ve helped them out nicely in the table and defending away from home has been one of their strengths.
This time round it’s actually going to help Arsenal being away from the Emirates because Sunderland need something to happen within the first 20 minutes.
The crowd could be a massive part on Saturday afternoon and if they don’t come out of the starting blocks from the off then there’s no hope of getting back into it.
Ultimately Arsenal are going to have too much in attack and despite missing some key names they have the right mix of experience and youth to ensure standards remain high.
Should they play, the Ox and Gibbs will both have a chance to show they can perform in the league, and with places hard to come by this season they must ensure they take their chance.