8th February 2013
A win over Arsenal would be a perfect way for Sunderland to make amends for the disappointing defeat to Reading, but the Black Cats could face a difficult task against the resurgent Gunners. Arsene Wenger’s side are showing a lot of improvement at the moment and they will fancy their chances at the Stadium of Light.
While everybody expected that Sunderland would develop into a genuine top table side following the arrival of Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson and Carlos Cuellar, the Black Cats just could not hit the ground running during the opening exchanges. They were even heavily involved in the relegation tussle at one stage, but Martin O’Neill’s side have since showed some improvement to climb to 12th place in the overall standings. Sunderland are still pretty inconsistent, with glorious victory over Manchester City followed by several very disappointing results, while weekend’s 2-1 defeat to Reading was a fresh blow to the players’ confidence. The good news is that Danny Rose and Carlos Cuellar are ready to return into action, while captain Lee Cattermole might have to wait for few more days before making his return after aggravating his knee injury in training. Given their recent form, the Black Cats may find it hard to match high-flying Arsenal at their Stadium of Light.
Arsenal have had their share of problems this season, although selection worries and unhappy players are nothing new for Arsene Wenger. The most important thing is that the Gunners have overcome all their woes without dropping out of the race for Champions League places, which basically means a strong finish to the league campaign would surely see them fulfill their objective. With Jack Wilshire returning to form and Mikel Arteta back from injury, the Gunners have looked really good in recent weeks, although they could have done without several very cheap goals. New signing Nacho Monreal appears to be a very good replacement for injured Kieran Gibbs, while attacking trio of Walcott, Giroud and Podolski seems to be finally clicking. The Gunners will have Gervinho back from Africa Cup of Nations duty, but Thomas Vermaelen, Laurent Koscielny, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey all face fitness tests.
Sunderland should look much better with Rose and Cuellar returning to the side, but I am still not sure the Black Cats have what it takes to stop in-form Arsenal. Therefore, I am backing the Gunners to overcome small defensive problems and continue with scintillating attacking performances at the Stadium of Light.
Verdict: Away win Arsenal (2)
Best Odds: 10/11
Bookmaker: Paddy Power
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