Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Sunderland

Emirates Stadium, London
Tuesday, May 16
2:45 p.m. EDT, 19:45 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Roger East
    • Assistants: Peter Kirkup and Matthew Wilkes
    • 4th Official: Lee Probert
  • Reverse Fixture: Sunderland 1 - 4 Arsenal
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 3 - 0 Sunderland
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 61 Arsenal wins, 50 Sunderland wins, 41 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-W-L-W-W-W
  • Sunderland's League Form: L-D-L-L-W-L
Let's take a moment to bask in what Arsenal accomplished on Saturday, winning comfortably at Stoke for the first time basically ever (their only other win at the Britannia since Stoke's 2008 promotion was the Aaron Ramsey game, in which Arsenal scored twice in injury time to win it 3-1.) They overcame Mike Dean and that time Peter Crouch essentially threw the ball into the net, to boot! I exaggerate, of course, but you get the point.

It's important to remember the positives at this stage because West Ham did Arsenal no favors on Sunday. Arsenal need two wins from two and a result for relegated Middlesbrough at Anfield next weekend to pip Liverpool for fourth. It's not out of the question that Boro could get a 0-0 draw; their defense is not the reason the club are going back down and they got that result at the Emirates in the fall. However, they have shipped seven goals in their last three games.

Just remember, the last time Arsenal needed a result from an already relegated North East club in order to achieve their desired position in the table, Newcastle beat Spurs 5-1.

Of course, that's all moot if another already relegated North East club come out of London with a point tonight, so let's take care of first things first.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Oxlade-Chamberlain (hamstring,) Cazorla (Achilles)
Doubts: Alexis (thigh,) Koscielny (calf)

One of the more enjoyable parts of Arsenal's win on Saturday was that a clearly knocked Alexis Sánchez was able to score Arsenal's third goal of the day. Of course, that does not come without consequences; since he did pick up a slight thigh problem, I wouldn't think he'd be risked in this one.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who injured his hamstring against Southampton last midweek, was not risked at the weekend, and Arsène Wenger confirmed he is still out. Laurent Koscielny, who had been a doubt, started at the Potteries, but had a recurrence of his calf problem. Santi Cazorla remains the only long-term absentee.

So the question is, how much rotation? I would think Aaron Ramsey would come back into to the side, but does Francis Coquelin or Granit Xhaka drop for him? Does Nacho Monreal get a rest? How about Laurent Koscielny, who had that calf knock? If both get a rest, then we could see Gabriel as one of the back three with Kieran Gibbs in the left wingback slot.

Or course, rotate too much and you lose all fluidity, especially considering there are still bound to be growing pains with a new formation. So, we shall see.

Predicted XI: Čech, Gabriel, Mustafi, Holding, Gibbs, Bellerín, Coquelin, Ramsey, Özil, Walcott, Welbeck.

Sunderland Squad News

Out: McNair (knee,) Watmore (knee,) Kirchhoff (knee)
Doubts: Oviedo (hamstring,) Cattermole (Achilles,) Pienaar (ankle,) Anichebe (thigh,) Denayer (thigh,) Honeyman (back)

Sunderland are cemented to the bottom of the league table, but they're at the top of the injury table right now. They have a rather large number of players in contention for returns, however.

Lee Cattermole is more likely than unlikely to feature as he comes back from an Achilles problem. Bryan Oviedo is on his way back from a hamstring problem and made the bench at the weekend. George Honeyman and Steven Pienaar are both 50/50 with back and ankle injuries, respectively. Victor Anichebe and Jason Denayer are both strong doubts with thigh problems.

Sunderland's absences include three players who all have knee injuries: Duncan Watmore needed a second surgery on his knee, Paddy McNair's season is also over through a cruciate ligament injury, and Jan Kirchhoff's knee injury was supposed to keep him out for six weeks, though that was eight weeks ago. Sounds like he's on some sort of Arsenal timeline.

Predicted XI: Pickford, Jones, Koné, O'Shea, Manquillo, Ndong, Larsson, Cattermole, Borini, Khazri, Defoe.

Current Form

Arsenal now have six wins from seven matches since switching formations to three at the back on April 17. Of course, after Liverpool took all three points at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, it's starting to look like it's too little, too late. Arsenal's road wins over Stoke and Southampton in the past week means they will finish the season with 30 points from 19 road games.

Sunderland had been winless in the league on the season when the clubs met back in October. After Sunderland lost to Arsenal, they went on to win four of their next seven before Boxing Day. Since then, they have won twice in 21 fixtures, 19 of them league games. In the FA Cup, they drew Burnley before losing the replay. So, it's no wonder the Black Cats were relegated on April 29. Incidentally, two of their six wins on the season came against Hull City, which, in effect, relegated the Tigers themselves.

Match Facts

Martin Atkinson made things interesting, but Arsenal ended up winning the reverse fixture comfortably in the end, 4-1. Alexis Sánchez put Arsenal up 1-0, but Sunderland were level from the penalty spot on 65 minutes after Petr Čech brought down Duncan Watmore. Arsenal were back in front just six minutes later, however, as the Gunners scored three goals in seven minutes.

Arsenal beat Sunderland at the Emirates twice last season, in the league in December and in the FA Cup a month later. Both matches ended 3-1 in favor of the Gunners. Arsenal's goal scorers were the same on both occasions as well, with Joel Campbell, Olivier Giroud, and Aaron Ramsey all scoring for Arsenal on both days, in that order both times. The only difference was the timing of Sunderland's goal. In December, Sunderland equalized before halftime with an Olivier Giroud own goal from a set piece. In January, Sunderland scored first, through Jeremain Lens, before Arsenal came back to win comfortably.

Sunderland's last league win against Arsenal came in November of 2009; Arsenal had just lost Robin van Persie to injury over the preceding international break and Darren Bent scored in the 71st minute to give Sunderland a 1-0 win.

The Referee

The referee is Wiltshire-based Roger East, which I suppose is funny since Wiltshire is in the South West. Arsenal have seen East five times in the past, winning three and drawing two. Only one of those five games was this season and it was all the way back in September, when Arsenal won 4-1 at Hull City; Arsenal were up 1-0 when East sent off Jake Livermore, but Alexis missed the penalty and, at 2-0, East correctly gave Hull a penalty to put them back in the match. Arsenal restored their two-goal lead just four minutes later before Granit Xhaka's long-range thunderbolt finished the scoring.

Sunderland have not had Roger East at all this season. All-time, they have a record of one win (an FA Cup tie against Kidderminster Harriers,) three draws, and four losses. The last time East worked a Sunderland match, it was April 2 of last year, when the Black Cats played a 0-0 draw at home to West Brom.

Around the League
  • Monday: Chelsea 4 - 3 Watford
  • Tuesday: Manchester City v. West Bromwich Albion; Etihad Stadium, Manchester
  • Wednesday: Southampton v. Manchester United; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Thursday: Leicester City v. Tottenham Hotspur; King Power Stadium, Leicester
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a reality television program. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat for non-stop drama.