Sunderland (The Stadium of Light)
Saturday 21st November 2009
Kick Off: 3pm
boring International break, we can finally concentrate on the Premier League again. It seems like forever since we played a league game (even longer with the Henry-witch hunt) but thankfully we can get back to watching Arsenal in Premiership action.
Unfortunately, Wengerâ€™s declaration that injuries are the reason for our poor form in November only 10 days ago was followed with the ankle injury to Robin Van Persie in an International friendly against Italy. The Dutch striker looks to be out for around 6 weeks which means he will miss some vital games over the winter period. Iâ€™ve said many times on this blog how excellent he has been and the way he has adapted his game this season and the way he has improved his team play has been exceptional. Along with Vermaelen, Fabregas and Song, he has been one of our most important players so far this year.
On top of the injury to Van Persie, Nicklas Bendtner is also out and would have been the first-choice replacement to lead the line. Theo Walcott is also injured, and with Diaby, Djourou, Clichy and Gibbs all missing todayâ€™s game against Sunderland is going to be a massive text.
The International break has been notorious for causing problems for us, and we usually see a poor performance from Arsenal following the disruption to our league campaign.
So this is the biggest game of the season so far.
Because with our injury worries and usual form after the International break, if we manage to get all 3 points then it will be huge. It will answer the questions regarding the strength of the squad, and also give the team a confidence boost and could be the catalyst for greater things.
This Arsenal team relies on momentum and we have been in fine form recently. We are unbeaten in 13 games now (after the double disaster in Manchester) and you sense that a good run of form is essential to any title aspirations we might have.
But another reason why this is such a massive test is because this season, Sunderland have become a formidable outfit.
Steve Bruce has assembled a side which has the ability to take on any team, partly because of the form of new signing Darren Bent. Their home form is excellent, with Chelsea being the only team to win at The Stadium of Light this season. They also have a knack for performing against the bigger sides as well this year, with an impressive win over Liverpool (in a game they dominated) and a draw at Old Trafford, in a game most thought they were very unfortunate not to win.
It has to be mentioned that their form of late has been patchy (with 2 defeats and a draw in their last 3 games) but the fact is the vast majority of Sunderlandâ€™s squad have had the best part of 2 weeks to rest and prepare for this game while most of our squad has been scattered across the globe. And a 2 week break could be just what Sunderland need to end their poor run of late.
So Sunderland are going to ask a hell of a lot of questions of Arsenal this afternoon and itâ€™s up to us to step up and grab all 3 points. I believe this game is so big for our season, that I couldnâ€™t care less if we played absolutely crap and scored a scrappy own goal. 3 points is what matters today.
Another problem we are facing is the prospect of starting with Eduardo and Vela upfront together for the first time this season. Arshavin is still doubtful after his excursions for Russia midweek so itâ€™s hugely important they both hit it off if they do partner each other. Form is partly dependant on regular team selections so this is another obstacle Arsenal need to overcome.
Todayâ€™s match is going to be such a tough encounter for so many reasons, so if Arsenal can take all 3 points with a smash-and-grab performance then I will be more than happy.
With the league being more open than ever before, we have to make days like today count.