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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Arsenal v Sunderland: Wenger must bounce back from Bayern defeat


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Arsenal start the day in second place - 15 places above Capital One Cup finalists Sunderland - but you wouldn't know that from speaking to the fans.

Gooners around the country are in despondent mood following Wednesday night's Champions League debacle. They came out of the blocks all guns blazing, but that penalty miss by Ozil, combined with the red card for Szczesny and Muller's late goal, has left a dark cloud hovering above the Emirates.

Mackems meanwhile are loving life under Gus Poyet. The former Brighton boss is undefeated in cup competition, the Great Escape is still on and the Black Cats could be on the brink of two, possible three, trips to Wembley this season. 

Adam JohnsonSunderland may still be in the bottom three, but with a game in hand on their rivals - and Adam Johnson in sparkling form - the future is looking distinctly rosy on Wearside. 

However, Arsene Wenger will be keen to put a smile back on the faces of the trophy-starved fans this afternoon and keep the pressure on Chelsea at the top of the league. Arsenal are unbeaten in the league against Sunderland since November 2009 and haven't lost at home to them since Bonfire Night in 1983.

This is a potential banana skin for the Gunners as Sunderland have only lost two of their last 10 league outings and the spirit amongst the players is high. But the visitors will be without defender Wes Brown following his fourth-minute red card against Hull City, so that will give Arsenal an advantage.

The bookies see this as an Arsenal win all day long and they should win if all of their players perform. Mesut Ozil could be rested for the game following his penalty miss and dip in form, but that will be no bad thing as Rosicky, Gnabry or Podolski would provide more energy and defensive cover than the German international right now.

Ozil of course made his Arsenal debut in the 1-3 victory at the Stadium of Light in September, setting up Giroud for an early opener. The Frenchman though now seems more interested in scoring elsewhere, but maybe that public humiliation will be the kick up the backside he needs to start firing again.

Sunderland will ultimately turn to Adam Johnson to produce the goods, but they would be equally happy to take a goalless draw right now. 

But who will come out on top?

SQF Prediction: 2-1

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Colin Illingworth

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