Preview: Sunderland v Arsenal

Sunderland will hope to repeat last weekend’s heroics with an unlikely win against Arsenal on Sunday, while Arsene Wenger needs to appease the Gunners’ agitated fans.

Competition: Premier League
Date: 24 April 2016
Gameweek 35
Kick-off 14:05 (GMT)
Venue: Stadium of Light (Sunderland)

Referee: M. Dean
Assistants: S. Long, M. Salisbury
Fourth official: M. Jones

Head-to-head summary:
TEAM         MATCHES    WIN     DRAW    LOSS
Sunderland   140        45      39      56
Arsenal      140        56      39      45

Previous encounter:
Arsenal 3-1 Sunderland 05/12/15 (Premier League)
Arsenal goalscorers: J. Campbell 33′, O. Giroud 63′, A Ramsey 90′
Sunderland goalscorers: O. Giroud (OG) 45′

Players to watch:
Fabio Borini was the standout player in last weekend’s win over Norwich, scoring the opening goal via a penalty which he won himself, and setting up the second with a terrific cross. The Gunners would do well to contain Lee Cattermole. The 28-year-old bossed the midfield for the entirety of the Norwich fixture and has consistently been one of Sunderland’s top performers this season.

Arsenal’s Chilean star Alexis Sánchez is in the middle of a red-hot run of form. The 27-year-old has scored five goals in his last four matches, including a brace in last weekend’s victory over The Baggies. Aaron Ramsey has also been instrumental in the Londoners’ recent return to form.

Team form and manager quotes:

The significance of last weekend’s away-win over fellow relegation battlers, Norwich City, and the impact on the Black Cats’ confidence, can’t be overstated. Before this dramatic result, Sam Allardyce’s men hadn’t won a match since mid-February, only taking four points from a possible 18. But the three goals they put past the Canaries changes everything; they will be going into this clash with a real confidence and swagger.

Just in case

“We have to commit to nullifying Arsenal’s passing game,” Allardyce told the Sunderland Echo. “Then we have to see if we can counter-attack and expose some of the defensive weaknesses that they generally leave because of Arsene’s philosophy of attacking the opposition.”

It took two cup exits for Arsenal to turn their 2016 around. The Gunners were, by their own high standards, poor at the start of the year. However, after falling to Watford and Barcelona, in the FA Cup and Champions League respectively, Arsene Wenger’s men have rediscovered some form and, on the back of a terrific run of performances from Alexis Sanchez, taken 12 points from their last six matches.

“We want to finish as high as possible,” Wenger said in his pre-match press conference. “You never know what happens in front of you, there could still be twists and turns.

“I don’t know where we will finish but we have to give absolutely everything in every game,” he continued. “We go to Sunderland, who are fighting not to go down so that will be a battle and we have to prepare for that.”
Team news:
Sunderland will be relieved that last week’s hero, Fabio Borini has shaken off a shin injury and will be available for the match. Jack Rodwell is also available after illness.

DeAndre Yedlin (ankle) is unlikely to feature for the Black Cats.

For the visitors, Jack Wilshere is available for selection for the first time this season after recovering from a broken leg.

Santi Carorla (achilles) and Tomas Rosicky (thigh) are both close to recovery, but are only featuring on the training ground at the moment.