Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Sunderland, FA Cup Third Round

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, January 9
10:00 a.m. EST, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Martin Atkinson
    • Assistants: Mark Scholes and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Lee Collins
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 59 Arsenal wins, 50 Sunderland wins, 40 draws
  • All-Time in the FA Cup: 3 Arsenal wins, 4 Sunderland wins, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-W-L-W-W
  • Sunderland's League Form: L-L-L-L-L-W
Here's a picture of the last squad to embark on three
consecutive FA Cup victories.
20 games into the league season and Arsenal are, for the first time since February 3, 2014, clear at the top of the table through an entire round of fixtures. They've got a tricky run of fixtures, with Liverpool away, Stoke away, and Chelsea at the Emirates looming on the horizon. In fact, it was Liverpool away that ended Arsenal's run at the top two years ago. But, for now, we divert our attentions to the FA Cup.

Arsenal have had great success in this competition in the past two seasons, becoming just the fourth club to win consecutive FA Cups more than once in their history. They're also the tournament's most successful club overall, as they have now won 12 titles. If Arsenal win a third straight FA Cup this May, they will become the first club to achieve that feat in 130 years (Blackburn Rovers last won three straight in 1884-86; the 1884 winners are pictured above.)

Relegation-threatened Sunderland stand in Arsenal's way as the first hurdle in their title defense. Sam Allardyce knows he needs to prioritize league points; to be honest, the last thing Sunderland needs right now is a cup run. Of course, a shock win from the Black Cats could buoy their confidence going forward too, so don't expect Sunderland to just roll over.

The third round is always a bit tricky, especially when drawn against Premier League opposition, so let's see what happens.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Alexis (hamstring,) Cazorla (knee,) Coquelin (knee,) Welbeck (knee,) Wilshere (ankle,) Rosicky (knee)

It's always weird to see Wenger on the touchline not in his
Bad news for Alexis Sanchez, as the Chilean international will not be fit to return from the hamstring injury he suffered on November 29. This now counts five weeks out for Alexis, who is "not bad but not ready." With the squad still stretched thin, Alexis unavailable, and Mesut Ozil in need of a rest, there's very little room for Arsene Wenger to rotate up top tomorrow.

Farther back in the formation, Mikel Arteta is said to be available again, while Tomas Rosicky will be back in training next week. There are no changes to the timeline for the other long-term injured players, including Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Jack Wilshere, and Danny Welbeck.

There is some room to rotate at the back; with Mathieu Debuchy out of favor and likely to be loaned out soon, Calum Chambers could get a start at right back. I'd expect starts for Gabriel and Kieran Gibbs as well. We'll also wait and see if Wenger chooses to use David Ospina as a cup keeper in this competition, after his, shall we say adventures in Europe.

Due to the nature of cup tie rotation, I'm going to refrain from predicting line-ups in this preview.

Sunderland Squad News

Out: Matthews (ankle,) Kaboul (hamstring,) Larsson (knee)
Doubts: Rodwell (hamstring)

Vito Mannone has earned three straight starts.
Sam Allardyce has indicated that he'll ring in the changes for this match, considering the Premier League has a midweek round of fixtures coming up ahead. What that exactly means for Sunderland's starting XI, I have no idea.

In terms of injuries, Adam Matthews is out with an ankle injury, Sebastian Larsson is out until next week with a knee problem, and Younes Kaboul is out for another two weeks with a hamstring injury. Jack Rodwell is also a doubt with a hamstring injury of his own.

It's worth noting that former Arsenal goalkeeper Vito Mannone, dropped after a few errors handed Arsenal a 2-0 win at the Stadium of Light last October, has returned to the starting position for Sunderland's last three league fixtures. He might be in the shop window, though, as Jordan Pickford has been recalled from his loan at Preston North End.

Current Form

Arsenal made it difficult, but escaped with a 1-0 win  last
Arsenal appeared to be in some trouble when they hosted Sunderland back in December. Since then, including that match, Arsenal have won six of their last seven across all competitions. The only blip, of course, was the heavy defeat to Southampton on Boxing Day, which felt like six losses in itself.

Sunderland went into that match on their first two-match winning streak of the season; they then proceeded to lose five straight. They will, however, come into this match with a win under their belt, as they had last month; Sunderland beat last place Aston Villa 3-1 at the Stadium of Light last week.

There's no real reason to talk about FA Cup "form," since Arsenal haven't played an FA Cup tie since last year's final, but it is notable that they have won 12 straight in the competition, en route to consecutive titles. Arsenal's record for most consecutive cup ties won is 16, between 2002 and 2004, before they lost 1-0 to Manchester United in the 2004 semi-final.

Match Facts

Olivier Giroud scores in the correct net for Arsenal.
Arsenal won at home against Sunderland just a month ago, by a 3-1 margin. Arsenal led through Joel Campbell on 33 minutes, but Olivier Giroud equalized into the wrong net just before halftime from a Sunderland set piece. Giroud scored in the correct net on 63 minutes to give Arsenal the lead again and Aaron Ramsey made the points safe in injury time.

Arsenal have not had the easiest of times with Sunderland in recent seasons, as the Black Cats have gotten a scoreless draw out of three of their last six visits to the Emirates, though Arsenal's overall record against Sunderland does not quite reflect those struggles; the Gunners have lost just once in their last 24 league meetings. Sunderland's last league win over Arsenal came on November 21, 2009, 1-0 at the Stadium of Light, thanks to a Darren Bent winner.

In the FA Cup, however, Sunderland won the most recent meeting between the clubs (in 2012) and have won four of the seven overall ties. That match in 2012 ended 2-0 to the hosts at the Stadium of Light. Kieran Richardson put a deflected shot past Lukasz Fabianski just before halftime, while an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain own goal doubled Sunderland's advantage just 12 minutes from time. That cup tie came just days after Arsenal's worst ever loss in Europe, 4-0 in Milan.

Sunderland won the first of the six other FA Cup meetings between the clubs, way back in 1893, by a 6-0 margin. (Woolwich) Arsenal returned the favor in 1906 with a 5-0 victory of their own. Sunderland won again in 1961, then in the 1973 semifinal at Hillsborough (Sunderland won the cup over Leeds in the final that year.) The Gunners came away with wins in 1991 and 1997 in a replay.

The Referee

"Do you see this? Do you know what this is for?"
The referee is West Yorkshire-based Martin Atkinson. Arsenal's record with Atkinson has been poor of late; in fact, it very well might be worse with Atkinson than any other referee over the past handful of years. He's taken charge of two Arsenal matches so far this season: the 2-0 loss to West Ham and the 1-1 draw with Tottenham.

Arsenal have lost five of their last eight with Atkinson in the middle, winning only against QPR (in which Olivier Giroud was, correctly, sent off) and Reading in the FA Cup Semi-Final (which required extra time, so over 90 minutes, it was a draw.) Last season, Atkinson took charge of Arsenal's losses at Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane.

Sunderland's record this season with Atkinson is split; the Black Cats lost 1-0 at West Brom in October, but beat Crystal Palace in London 1-0 in November.

Martin Atkinson has shown 98 cards this season across all competitions; none of them have been red.

Around the Third Round
  • Friday (night): Exeter City v. Liverpool; St. James Park, Exeter
  • Saturday (early): Wycombe Wanderers v. Aston Villa; Adams Park, High Wycombe
  • Saturday: Birmingham City v. Bournemouth; St. Andrew's, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Brentford v. Walsall; Griffin Park, London
  • Saturday: Bury v. Bradford City; Gigg Lane, Bury
  • Saturday: Colchester United v. Charlton Athletic; Colchester Communit Stadium, Colchester
  • Saturday: Doncaster Rovers v. Stoke City; Keepmoat Stadium, Doncaster
  • Saturday: Eastleigh v. Bolton Wanderers; Ten Acres, Eastleigh
  • Saturday: Everton v. Dagenham & Redbridge; Goodison Park, London
  • Saturday: Hartlepool United v. Derby County; Victoria Park, Hartlepool
  • Saturday: Huddersfield Town v. Reading; John Smith's Stadium, Huddersfield
  • Saturday: Hull City v. Brighton & Hove Albion; KC Stadium, Kingston upon Hull
  • Saturday: Ipswich Town v. Portsmouth; Portman Road, Ipswich
  • Saturday: Leeds United v. Rotherham United; Elland Road, Leeds
  • Saturday: Middlesbrough v. Burnley; Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough
  • Saturday: Newport County v. Blackburn Rovers; Rodney Parade, Newport
  • Saturday: Northampton Town v. Milton Keynes Dons; Sixfields Stadium, Northampton
  • Saturday: Norwich City v. Manchester City; Carrow Road, Norwich
  • Saturday: Nottingham Forest v. Queens Park Rangers; City Ground, Nottingham
  • Saturday: Peterborough United v. Preston North End; London Road Stadium, Peterborough
  • Saturday: Sheffield Wednesday v. Fulham; Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Crystal Palace; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Watford v. Newcastle United; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Bristol City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday: West Ham United v. Wolverhampton Wanderers; Boleyn Ground, London
  • Saturday (late): Manchester United v. Sheffield United; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (very early): Oxford United v. Swansea City; Kassam Stadium, Oxford
  • Sunday (early): Carlisle United v. Yeovil Town; Bloomfield Road, Blackpool
    • Carlisle have played home matches in numerous locations over the past month due to storm damage to the pitch at Brunton Park.
  • Sunday (early): Chelsea v. Scunthorpe United; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (late): Tottenham Hotspur v. Leicester City; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (night): Cardiff City v. Shrewsbury Town; Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a shipwreck. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for the salvage attempt.