Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has defended Arsenal’s squad depth ahead of Saturday’s game at the Emirates Stadium.

The Black Cats are without Jermaine Defoe and Sebastian Larsson, but that is nothing compared to the Gunners. Arsène Wenger won’t be able to pick Alexis Sánchez, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Danny Welbeck, Tomas Rosicky at the weekend, with question marks also surrounding Theo Walcott and Mikel Arteta.

However, Allardyce is expecting Arsenal to be as strong as ever.

“I think the strength in depth of Arsène’s squad is why they’ve always qualified for Europe and always got through the group stages, always finished in the top four,” Allardyce told the media at his press conference on Thursday, denying that the injury troubles being suffered by Arsenal give his side a better chance on Saturday than they’d usually have.

“You could say it weakens the side slightly but not that much.

“They’ve got a top quality squad with international players throughout.”

Arsène Wenger ‘failed’ to sign an outfield player in the summer and is now relying on the likes of Joel Campbell and Mathieu Flamini to get his side through a tricky period.

What isn’t being mentioned is that these players are internationals, yet they’re still only playing due to the sheer volume of injuries. It’s not as though Campbell, for instance, is second choice, but Wenger is missing three potential wide players (plus Aaron Ramsey, who will have to play centrally).

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No matter what Allardyce says though, this is far from a full strength Arsenal side. Can Sunderland take advantage?

“Only Saturday will tell,” said the experienced manager. “If we play our very best game those weaknesses may be able to be exploited, if you can call them a weakness.

“Our best form will be needed, even if people consider Arsenal weaker without those players.”

Despite the injuries, Arsenal are still big favourites for the game. Arsène Wenger believes in his players, and that’s why each and every one of them is at the club. Now’s the time for those on the fringes of the squad to start repaying him.