Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has backed forward Duncan Watmore to continue his rehabilitation from an ankle ligament injury when the Black Cats take on Arsenal.
Watmore made the ideal comeback after more than two months on the sidelines when he came on as a second-half substitute and scored Sunderland’s third in a 3-0 victory at Norwich City.
The 22-year-old’s performance has heaped pressure on Wahbi Khazri, who could be dropped to make way for Watmore if Allardyce chooses to start him when Arsenal visit the Stadium of Light.
Allardyce reflected on his inclusion at Carrow Road, saying: “The physio said he needed a game before he rejoins the squad, but we watched him in training and I just felt that if we needed him for 20 minutes or 25 minutes he might make a difference.
“As it happened it was 45 and he made an impact by scoring the winning goal.
“He looked very dangerous on three or four occasions on the counter attack when we could have done a little better and maybe scored even more.”
He added: “He was extremely tired at the end of the game, having been out for such a long time, and all the work he’s done in the gym and on the training field – it just goes to show how quickly players lose their match fitness. Of course, the only way he gets that back is by playing more and more games.”
A win over Arsenal would lift Sunderland out of the Premier League relegation zone, and Allardyce called for his players to emulate their performance in the 2-1 win over Manchester United earlier in the year, and in their narrow 1-0 defeat to Manchester City.
He said: “I would hope we can hold our nerve and hit the sort of form we hit against Man City and Man United.
“If the lads have that clean sheet mentality and stop Arsenal scoring, I’m convinced we’ll have the chance to try and win it. Whether we do or not, we’ll have to wait and see.”
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