Sunderland v Arsenal preview: Braga freshness means no excuses

With Chelsea not in action until tomorrow afternoon we have a chance to finish the day on top of the Premier League.

Granted, we still have to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, a team who beat us 1-0 in this corresponding fixture last season, but to sit atop the league table after five rounds would be a great indication of the excellent start our boys have made this season.

The midweek Champions League game against Braga was completed with minimal fuss and unlike many other European outings should have no impact on the intensity of today’s performance. A number of important players were rested – Tomas Rosicky, Denilson and Emmanuel Eboue among them – while Alex Song, Marouane Chamakh and Andrey Arshavin were able to be pulled off after an hour to be given a well-earned break.

Sunderland have started the season at a relatively mild pace, picking up five points from their opening four games, but will, like Blackburn at Ewood Park, give us a good test on their home turf. Darren Bent is always good for a goal and with a clever manager like Steve Bruce at the helm they will be sure to put as much pressure as possible on our midfielders, something that Braga failed badly to do on Wednesday.

In saying that if Cesc Fabregas and Co play anywhere near as well as they did against the Portuguese side then their is no reason why Arsenal shouldn’t win this match. Our Spanish captain was mercurial on Wednesday night, scoring two goals and dominating the game with his suggestive passing, and his influence clearly rubbed off on the likes of Jack Wilshere and Chamakh, who also had excellent games.

Given Arsene Wenger’s propensity for rotation in the past couple of games it will be interesting to see the side he puts out against Sunderland.

Manuel Almunia will look to continue his bright start to the season in goals while Thomas Vermaelen’s continued absence with an achilles problem means new boys Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny will pair up for the third game running. It remains to be seen who the manager chooses to play in the full-back positions. Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna are usually the favoured choice when it comes to away games but both featured against Braga and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least one of them make way for Kieran Gibbs or Eboue.

In midfield Alex Song’s early midweek bath suggests he is set to start with support coming from Fabregas and, in my opinion, Denilson, whose short passing game could give us the appropriate tempo to keep Sunderland’s defensive on their toes. Chamakh and Arshavin are both certainties to start meaning there is one position up for grabs on the right which could be taken by any one of Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Carlos Vela or even that man Eboue.

I have to say I’m quite excited about this game. The boys will surely want to make up for their loss in this fixture last season and take advantage of the opportunity to finish the day at the top of the league and put Chelsea under some pressure. Meanwhile the late kick-off will only add to the atmosphere in the Stadium of Light and it could well be an entertaining and intriguing game of football.

As always I’ll be watching the game at The Oscar Wilde in Berlin so if you’re around those parts be sure to drop in and have a Guinness, Club Mate or anything else that takes your fancy.

Here’s to three points and another entertaining and efficient Arsenal performance.

Thoughts?

Have your say on Arsenal’s trip to Sunderland by leaving a comment.

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23 Responses to “Sunderland v Arsenal preview: Braga freshness means no excuses”

  1. tunde adeluyi
    September 18, 2010 at 11:45 am #

    We just have to win this match.if we want to win the title we have to win difficult matches like this.this match isnt going to be easy,but we can can win it

  2. rory mckee
    September 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    hello there.todays fixture is so important as is every premiership game,but even more so today as its a great chance to build on a great start.looking at up and coming fixtures this could be are easiest away fixture for a while as man city and chelsea ones get closer.the gunners are so exciting yet frustrating to watch.i sit watching them very confident but not also if that makes sense,i still have massive doubts about are defensive capabilities and feel we will suffer soon when strikers have an off day.well done cesc you are nothing short of a genius in the style of your game,attitude and commitment to the cause and a credit to arsene wenger and his genius also.i think barring injury fingers crossed, the wee spaniard is nailed on for pfa award at end of season as no one compares to him in england at least.lastly c.vela deserves a mention because he has shown again the frightning natural goalscoring ability which is awesome to see,reminds me of eduardo pre injury and theres another special guy us gooners will never forget.thanks and lets take sunderland out big style today.well done marouane on great start to life at arsenal nearly forgot.

  3. Darragh
    September 18, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    I think Vela deserves another run. His goals could make the difference in this tough injury laden time.

  4. Hey Nonny Mouse
    September 18, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Given the injuries we have I don’t think there’s much scope for rotation. We need to play our strongest players so Song, Fab, Chamack. The French defence. Arshavin and Nasri on the wings. Basically the same as against Braga even though this will be a vastly different game. I’d be inclined to start with Denilson though instead of Jumping Jack Flash. As long as we don’t concede early we’ll dominate possession and try and put them under pressure – and if we score we’ll win. In theory they could give this Sunderland team a hiding – they just need the belief that they can win these games – and I think they may have just started getting that belief…

  5. george mckee
    September 18, 2010 at 1:27 pm #

    dont be fooled my fellow gooner friends in to thinking this fixture at stadium of light will be easy.arsene im sure has them well warned about how tough a game like this will be.the passion,atmosphere,and love of the game in north east is to be admired and sunderland and newcastle are 2 clubs i greatly respect for this.there fans are a credit to there clubs.anyway enough of the praise for any other club but the arsenal,dont know what came over me there.im going for a 3.1 away success with arshavin for 2 of them,although id be even more pleased in many ways for a boring 1.0 victory with a very solid defensive display.let me finish be praising the players for there very hard work and superb focus so far.its so,so important this continues.never under estimate the importance of a.song in this team he is a key,key player and this is so clear to me.this will be tough exam today as my son rory and i where in attendence at the emirates in february as we beat sunderland 2.0 in hard fought victory.thankyou.

  6. Eric Eyaru
    September 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm #

    We sure need to take out Sunderland tonight if we are going to put the doubters in their place. If the boys are going to continue fighting for every ball like we have seen against Blackburn and Bolton, then we can surely beat anyone that crosses our path. That is one positive attribute I see in this Arsenal side this season that must be nurtured if we have to entertain any dreams of silverware.

  7. GunnerBoss
    September 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm #

    If we don’t win, we know who to blame…don’t we?

    Here’s to a resounding 3-0 victory

  8. Adam Sommer
    September 18, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    I for one would love to see Denilson get a start. I really like his support play and work rate. Looking forward to today’s match, and expect it to be a real fight.

    Party On!

  9. billi
    September 18, 2010 at 7:29 pm #

    entertaining first half, I think Sunderland is dominating, I haven’t expected that, curious goal by Faby, but his injury is not so funny, high tempo, I think the question is if Sunderland can keep that up and if Arsenal can stand it more or less well 😎

  10. John
    September 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Either Song or Wilshire need to stay back a bit to give some cover to the back four, I suspect Denilson will be on soon as both Song and Wilshire have been booked.

    Can’t really say it was a lucky goal as Fabregas injured himself scoring it but is was certainly odd.

    C’mon The Gunners, let’s settle this in the second half.

  11. ArsenalTheWengerWay
    September 18, 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    Unbelievable, a freak goal for us and a freak goal for them. 15 seconds after the final whistle and sunderland score. Another aerial bombardment should have been cleared by either clichy or koscienly but bent scores. I have no Regrets whatsoever, the defense was magnificent to say the least. we survived 90 minutes of longs free kicks corners, throw ins. everything that comes over the top. Our attack was toothless to say the least, but our defence more than made up for it. well done squallaci and koscienly, not to mention clichy and sagna. vela should have come on.

  12. LAGunner
    September 18, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Excellent match, despite the draw. My instinct is to blame Clichy, but were it not for the Rosicky miss that goal would’ve been forgivable, as the team put on a wonderful effort at the back. Wenger needs to think long and hard about continuing to start Arshavin. At this point, Wenger can start rotating Arshavin and Vela more frequently.

  13. Andrew Enloe
    September 18, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    Gutted. One of the best Arsenal defensive performances I’ve ever seen, ruined by a lack on concentration when absolutely everyone in the world was sure we’d won.

    Tactical analysis later. I need a drink.

  14. Andrew Weber
    September 18, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    Ah nuts. Such a great effort, I can’t even be frustrated with the boys, more frustrated for the boys. Life’s like that sometimes.

  15. Gibbs
    September 18, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    Gutted. We shouldnt drop points like that.

  16. shambogunner
    September 18, 2010 at 11:13 pm #

    Frankly I dont think we deserved to win, we only threatened to score once through Chamakh in the 2nd half, the goal we did get was the greatest fluke youll ever see so Im not too upset at the dropped points albeit the way it came hurt…Clichy is a nervous wreck when he has to defend.
    I thought, if we are hailing this as a great defensive performance, that Chamakh has to take alot of the plaudits for that due to his relentless harrassing of defenders, honestly the guy wins ball and frees he has no right to, really happy with him especially working on his own up front with little or no quality ball coming his way.
    Songs red has been coming a while if were honest, he often picks up needless yellows and never changes his game once cautioned, still going around like a bulldozer and hes not clever enough or subtle enough to avoid sending off.,,,hope he learns from it.
    Arshavin has been a real dissapointment so far for me but Nasri has been playing well, I just wish we could show some conviction in front of goal, I mean there were about 6 occasions today when the shot was on and they were struggling and we tried an unnecessary pass, its great at the emirates but when your away you have to try your luck, like Nasri at Birmingham last season.
    These are points dropped that will not be dropped by our rivals, so it puts way more emphasis on our head to head games with Utd and Chlesea now, that is if we wanna win the league, but like I said we didnt deserve to win that game and we lost Cesc early so Id have taken the draw before knowing that information.
    Why couldnt Chamakh have hit the pen, Rosicky has scored one goal in the last 3 years, hardly the outstanding candidate.

  17. Angie
    September 19, 2010 at 12:33 am #

    It was a boring game! very boring for us in the first half. I felt they were scared or not even comfortable. I didn’t like the performance of the offense! I think today, Almunia and his defense were incredible! They proved that they can guard well for a long time, but unfortunately, the offense wasn’t creative until the second half. I think sometimes they tried complicated things in stead of taking it the easy way. Eboue did a horrible game, he should have calmed down, but the ref was too harsh on him for that blocking. It wasn’t on purpose, he was on the way. The missed penalty is a stupid and very annoying thing to see. Why did they picked him to shoot? Why? I don’t think Rosicky was ready to shoot that one, or is the best at penalties under such pressure. I think placement instead of power would have helped him to score it. Such a waist! I’m disappointed. I hope that Cesc is ok, we can’t afford to lose him!

  18. Angie
    September 19, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    I’m mean Song! not Eboue sorry…mixed up right there

  19. Patrick Weber
    September 19, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    Chamakh was immense. He ran and ran and ran and ran. It is the worst type of game for a lone striker, they get absolutely no joy. The defensive performance was excellent, just a little bit of unluckiness when Clichy cleared straight into Koscielny. Like you said Andy, frustrated for the guys, not at them.

  20. Sylvan
    September 19, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    I don’t mean to call Arsenal a bad team but we deserved to lose
    this game.Are goal was a lucky one and they played very well
    Their goal might have been a lucky one too but still they deserved to score
    before.

  21. Lil Weezy
    September 19, 2010 at 9:22 am #

    We all got a glimpse of what life without Fabregas means! as soon as he came off, all the passes were sideways , no real threat for the rest of the game. Song 2nd yellow was harsh, Wilshere danced his way to the edge of the box and got tripped from behind but the perpatror didnt even get a yellow card.
    Anywho, it’s a long season and we are expected to drop a few points here and there, so we shouldnt be terribly upset.. we are still on course for what can be a heck of season.

  22. MTY
    September 19, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    To be fair, we didn’t deserve to get more than a point out of this match though the manner in which we conceded the goal was quite disappointing. Anyhow, Sunderland away is always a tricky fixture and getting a point out of it isn’t bad after all.
    The center halves & Almunia were superb and the work rate of Chamakh was simply incredible. Somethings to think about –
    – If Cesc is off, we got nobody to marshal the midfield!!
    – Why Rosicky took the penalty? why not Chamakh?
    – I’m losing confidence in Clichy. He’s good on the offensive but he seems not capable of improving his defending. Time to give Gibbs the nod ahead of him?
    – I don’t know what to make of Arshavin. He did well against Braga (he had a bad start in that game also before he got his goal) & yesterday he was total shit. I guess when we get the injured players back, he won’t be a regular starter anymore.

  23. Hey Nonny Mouse
    September 19, 2010 at 12:48 pm #

    That was horrible. But I’m determined to take positives from the result and ultimately a point away at Sunderland with only 10 men and missing Fabregas, Van P, Vermaelen, Walcott and Song for most of the 2nd half is not bad going. Like others here I thought our defence was excellent under a lot of pressure. I’m not used to seeing another Prem league team have more possession than us. What was happening? Arshavin was dreadful. Rosicky not good. You just knew he was going to miss that penalty didn’t you? The look on his face was not the look of someone who believed he was going to score. Chamack shoulda taken it. He had an excellent game – kudos to the guy. He’s got balls.
    No more criticisms. Well done the new guys. Well done Almunia. We’ll whack Sunderland when they come back to our place.
    What on earth is going to happen on Tuesday, though? I have no idea.

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