Sunderland Preview

So this weekend football returns – Gorgeous, beautiful, adorable football. Such a shame that amongst all that beauty and attractiveness will be the appearance of my old mate Steve ‘Wash my face with a hammer’ Bruce* at the Emirates for the game between his struggling Sunderland side and our own troubled Arsenal on Sunday afternoon**

*Steve and I are not mates, we’ve never met. That is the only fictional part of the above.
**I suspect that this post may serve as both today & tomorrow’s entry because frankly I don’t know or care enough about Sunderland to include them in two days worth of blog posts.

As I said in Arsenal.com’s ‘Talking Heads’ this week (yes that’s a plug and yes I’m happy with my current level of self-publication) an uncomfortable glimpse at the league table suggests that there is little between us and the Mackems right now. in fact in his pre game presser yesterday afternoon Arsene Wenger told reporters “Sunderland are a bit like us. You feel there is potential but they have not found confidence yet“. Well let’s hope Big Steve’s side display all the confidence of a 14 year old with a novelty clip on moustache and a stutter trying to buy a keg of beer from that off licence in Teen Wolf. (If that joke makes no sense to you I suggest you download and watch Teen Wolf right now because quite frankly you have wasted your life up to this point. NB – If you watch the half-assed new TV drama rather than the 1985 Michael J Fox movie you will continue to waste said life)

I’ve just had that uncomfortable glimpse at the league table and it was actually worse than I expected. Mathematically it is possible that we could find ourselves in the bottom three come full time on Sunday but of course that won’t happen because that involves Wigan, WBA and our opponents winning and frankly, as bad we have been at times this season those sides are all worse. Plus I never consider anything mathematically.

The visitors have lost games to the three promoted clubs, Norwich City, Swansea & QPR already this season as well as the Tyne-Wear derby. Asamoah Gyan has naffed off to United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain on a season long loan only a year after joining the Black Cats in a £13m deal from French Club Rennes and whilst anyone vaguely connected to Sunderland will tell you that the Ghanaian has moved purely for the money I think the rest of us are clued up enough to know it’s because he was scared to death of having his legs broken by Lee Cattermole in training.

Pretty Boy Bruce’s side were knocked out of the Carling Cup by Brighton & Hove Albion for goodness sake… Yep that’s right, beaten by a side that last season were plying their trade in League One. I bet it was Bruce and his chairman Ellis Short who made sure the papers were full of guff about us only having a crowd of 46,539 for our League cup victory over League Two Shrewsbury, a cunning ploy to take the heat off of their early exit from a competition which should realistically represent them with a chance of silverwear – even we managed to make the final last year…

Ok so Sunderland did beat Stoke 4-0 so maybe they’re not that bad a bunch up on Wearside. I’ve got time for anyone who can upset Tony Pulis.

In terms of Arsenal news I guess it’s fairly good…

Aside from Jack Wilshere, Tommy Vermaelan, Abu Diaby & Bacary Sagna we have everybody fit which I think may be some kind of club record.

The gaffers biggest decision is who will replace the almost ireplacable Sagna at right back, it seems that the most likely choice is the most obvious one – Right back Carl Jenkinson. I know the young lad has had his critics, I may even have been amongst them, but the truth is he is still learning his trade and whilst this is a massive step up from the level he has been playing at previously he must have been expected to play a decent amount of games this season and rightly so. Sagna, as reliable as he may well be was never going to feature in every game was he? It matters little that Wenger suggests that Koscielny and Djourou have the ability to fill in at right back, as they both have on previous occasions. My own view is that we should be playing players in their best positions (That the squad should be strong enough to ensure we have the ability to replace like for like across the board is another argument all together). Jenkinson has to play because the alternative is he becomes the right sided version of Wayne Bridge, a footballer who gets paid a footballers wages but doesn’t do any of the work. Now whilst the life of Bridge may be appealing to many – Date a Saturday (The girl band not the first day of the weekend) and earn a fortune all whilst holding a massive grudge against John Terry – Jenks is an Arsenal fan and ultimately is living his dream. He hasn’t gotten there by fluke, he is a good young footballer who hopefully will grow into an outstanding footballer at Arsenal.

It’s a chance for us to build on our home form, aside from the blip against Liverpool we’ve looked pretty solid at the grove so far this season and I can’t see why that shouldn’t continue against Sunderland. The Mackems may have signed something like nine players in the summer but their squad of former Manchester United players looks pretty threadbare to me. With Gyan enjoying the warmth of the sun again & the worlds greatest striker ineligible to play the biggest threat will no doubt come from former Gunner Seb Larsson (unless Titus Bramble is hanging around somewhere)

Both Arsene Wenger and Captain Robin Van Persie have been talking about the Swede’s quality over the past few days and the skipper got a first hand refresher course in facing Larsson as the pair squared up during the international break. Robin has told the official Arsenal match day programme “Seb worked really hard on Tuesday, we were up against each other the whole game. I Was playing at right midfield and he was at left wing. But he was tracking back the whole game, so I was playing against two men basically”

Now I’m pretty sure that when Larsson was at Arsenal he was only one man so if he has now gained the ability to be two men then that is incredibly impressive although I do wonder how that fit’s in to the rules of the game? Do Sunderland only name ten men now or do they have a player over?

The midfielder was mooted with a return to London upon leaving Birmingham in the summer, how true it all was I don’t know but the suggestion is the player felt he was more likely to get regular football elsewhere. Given the unexpected and devastating loss of Jack Wilshere for the lions share of the season maybe Seb could have found himself as a regular in this Arsenal side but why am I bothering to blather on with this futile conjecture?

Reading back you may suggest that this whole post has been little more than a written exercise in blathering, and I wouldn’t be overly quick to dismiss that view myself. I guess if the truth be told I’m a little nervous about the game. Say that out loud and consider we’re talking about a home game against an absmyl Sunderland side and it sounds farcical but that is what our showing so far this campaign has led us to.

I honestly think we’ll win the game, and I would normally expect us to win it comfortably even now, but you just can’t take anything for granted with this Arsenal side can you.

So let’s hope that Seb Larsson forgets how to tie his laces and spends the ninety minutes falling over, that Andrey Arshavin can start meeting expectations, that whoever plays in front of Jenkinson makes an effort to give him some support and that the lad himself has the kind of game that will fill him with confidence going forward. Let’s also hope that after saying something along the lines of “I’ve never felt so great” Van Persie doesn’t get crumpled by John O’Shea or indeed Lee Cattermole (or both).

I know that’s a lot of hope to be doing but while we’re at it let’s also hope for a glut of Arsenal goals, a clean sheet and three lovely points.

Thanks for reading.

Paul.

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