Preview: Sunderland v Arsenal

Sunderland are still searching for a first win of the season as they prepare to host an in-form Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on Saturday.

Premier League
29 October 2016
Matchday 10
Kick-off: 19H30 HKT
Venue: Stadium of Light

Referee: M Atkinson
Assistants: S Child, S Burt
Fourth official: C Pawson

Head-to-head summary:

Sunderland 141 45 40 56
Arsenal 141 56 40 45

Previous encounter:

Sunderland 0 – 0 Arsenal – 24/04/16 (League)

Players to watch:

Black Cats keeper Jordan Pickford has had plenty to do in a defence that has been porous this season and he has impressed enough to have made the England squad for the recent World Cup qualifier against Slovenia. The 22-year-old will likely have a busy afternoon on Saturday and will have his credentials tested to the full by a Gunners side that has some serious firepower and numerous attack-minded players at the top of their game right now.

Alexis Sanchez last scored in the Premier League at the end of September and will be out to add to his four goals notched so far this season. With Olivier Giroud now back from injury, Sanchez will also be looking to keep his place in the starting XI and will be keen to get on the score-sheet in the north east.

Team form and manager quotes:

That Friday feeling… ? #arsenal #gunners

A photo posted by Arsenal Official (@arsenal) on

Sunderland are the only team in the Premier League not to win yet this season and have claimed only one point from their last six games and two points from their nine matches this season. Already favourites for the drop, there appears to be an impending sense of doom around the club.

Jermain Defoe has bagged four of Sunderland’s six league goals this season, but has seen his scoring form drying up of late. Manager David Moyes has blamed the service he’s been getting.

“We’ve got a terrible habit of trying to hit Jermain all the time over the top, and it’s not good enough just to try to do that,” said Moyes. “It’s not that we should never do that, just that it is not leading to enough goals for us.

“We have to keep believing and getting more people in the box. We still seem to feel that all we can do is hit Jermain Defoe over the top with one ball, we don’t cross the ball enough, we don’t get enough people forward, we don’t pass the ball enough. We have to improve on all those things.”

Arsenal dropped two points to struggling Middlesbrough in their last league match, but six consecutive wins before that means they are behind table-topping Manchester City only on goal difference.

Gunners manager Arsene Wenger also discussed Defoe in the lead up to the game, although he feels that the Black Cats are a potential threat at set-pieces as well.

“Their main danger is Defoe. You have to admire Defoe for what he has done – when a guy at his age moved to the US you think that’s the end in the Premier League.

“But he came back and had a huge impact and it’s down to him that Sunderland stayed in the league.

“They are good on set-pieces with Wahbi Khazri, and they have Lamine Kone and John O’Shea who are dangerous on set-pieces as well,” Wenger added.

Team news:

Moyes’ problems have been compounded by a lengthy injury list that includes key players such as Adnan Januzaj, Fabio Borini, Jan Kirchhoff, Vito Mannone and Sebastian Larsson.

For the London club, Theo Walcott, Nacho Monreal and Santi Cazorla are all doubtful, potentially adding to an absentee list that includes Lucas Perez, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck (all injured) and Granit Xhaka (suspended). However, Wenger has confirmed that Aaron Ramsey is back in the squad, as is Giroud.