The end of the season draws nearer and with third place secured there really is now one eye on our trip to Wembley, but there are still two Premier League games to take care of starting with Sunderland in midweek.
Here’s everything you need to know about this Wednesday’s opponents:
|Home Ground||Stadium of Light|
|Record Signing||Asamoah Gyan (£13.2M in 2010)|
|Ex Gunners||Vito Mannone, Sebastian Larsson|
|Top Scorer||Connor Wickham (5)|
|Most Assists||Patrick van Aanholt (5)|
|Most Yellow Cards||Lee Cattermole (14)|
|Star Player||Costel Pantilimon|
|Biggest Liability||Wes Brown|
Style of play
For a while now Sunderland have been content to be combative in midfield in order to assert some sort of influence over games.
When that doesn’t work they have no problem with sitting back very deep and crowding the opposition into very tight spaces where they can win the ball back when it’s loose.
We see this a lot from Premier League sides but Sunderland in particular go to some extreme.
The previous few seasons under a number of managers have seen this Sunderland side concede as many, if not more, shots than anyone else in the Premier League. The hope is that those shots will be desperate, from long range, and into extremely crowded areas.
An approach like this has had success against Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal sides but also poses us with problems, restricting space where we really want it. Jack Wilshere’s willingness to carry the ball could be important on Wednesday night, as could the off-the-ball movement of Mesut Özil and Aaron Ramsey with the latter looking to occupy the sort of spaces created by the former.
Sunderland have played just seven games under Dick Advocaat, but the experienced Dutchman has increased their ability to take games to the opponent.
Lining up with three natural strikers with Connor Wickham, Danny Graham, and Jermain Defoe has seen Sunderland average 14 shots across their last six games – four shots per game more than the first 30 Premier League fixtures.
With a disciplined defensive, combative midfield, and willing strikerforce Sunderland are no pushovers.
The Wearside team have 15 yellow cards more than any other Premier League side (largely owing to Lee Cattermole) and Anthony Taylor will have to be strong on Wednesday.
Pantilimon; Jones, Coates, O’Shea, van Aanholt; Larsson, Cattermole, Rodwell, Wickham; Defoe, Graham.
Season so far
A turbulent spell came to an end when Gus Poyet was finally sacked on 16th March.
Sunderland only actually lost four games before Christmas, but too many draws have left them in the mire. Of 11 draws in the opening 19 games, six ended 0-0; clearly Sunderland could have afforded to go for broke a bit more often and probably would’ve been safe by now. Draws aren’t worth very much.
The seven games under Advocaat haven’t been wholly encouraging, but results have certainly improved. Only two draws while three wins have brought nine crucial points. In these situations a ‘caution to the wind’ approach is underrated.
Three points are worth the risk and Sunderland are picking them up now, but it might be too late.
The issue of goalscoring was addressed in January with Jermain Defoe brought in, but the 32 year-old has only managed four goals in his 15 starts. Defoe was made to play up front alone by Poyet, but partnering him with Danny Graham has brought more success for Advocaat. The old fashioned big man, little man combination is supported by Connor Wickham playing from wide.
All three have been on the pitch for the last four and half games, and have scored four goals between them. Nothing to shout about but clearly a better strike rate than their combined 10 goals from 46 starts over the course of the whole season.
Sunderland have Chelsea on Sunday and need one more point to confirm safety – they’ll be well up for this one.
Arsenal’s last 5 results against Sunderland: WWWWD
|League||25/10/2014||(A)||W 2-0||Arsenal: Alexis (30, 90+1)
|League||22/2/2014||(H)||W 4-1||Arsenal: Giroud (5, 31), Rosicky (42) Koscielny (57)
Sunderland: Giaccherini (81)
|League||14/9/2013||(A)||W 3-1||Arsenal: Giroud (11) Ramsey (67, 76)
Sunderland: Gardner (48)
|League||9/2/2013||(A)||W 1-0||Arsenal: Cazorla (35)
|League||18/8/2012||(H)||W 0-0||Arsenal: –
Record for Arsenal v Sunderland:
Overall record between the two clubs:
Sunderland’s last 5 results: DWWDL
|League||Everton||(A)||W 2-0||Graham, Defoe|
|League||Southampton||(A)||W 2-1||Gómez (2)|
|League||Crystal Palace||(H)||L 1-4||Wickham|