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Sunderland Preview: Time to Pick Up Some Form

Can he kickstart his season here?

In all honesty, it hasn’t been a good start to the 2014/15 season. The Gunners are walloping in mid-table in the Premier League, already out of the Capital One Cup, the ever-increasing injury list continues to pile up and the performances on the pitch have been downright disappointing. However, the Gunners come into this game on the end of what proved to be a priceless victory following the dismal performances from the lads on the night. Sunderland on the other hand, will have to do better following the 8-0 bashing they received from an in-form Southampton side. Both teams have become draw specialists early in the season and I’d be hoping for more than just one point this afternoon.

History favors the Gunners in this fixture as Arsenal has won their last three encounters against the Black Cats, which includes a home and away double last season. Aaron Ramsey stole the show when both sides clashed in September 2013 and the home game will be fondly remembered by the awesome team goal that was finished off by Tomas Rosicky. Olivier Giroud, you flickin’ devil, you! Arsenal are on a nine-match unbeaten run against Sunderland in the Premier League and are vying to win at the Stadium of Light for the fourth season in a row.

Gus Poyet has signed veteran French fullback, Anthony Reveillere on a free contract in his bid to improve a back line that was in shambles last week. With Vergini scoring such an embarrassing own goal last week, he might have to do with some time in the dugout for a more experienced lad like Reveillere. Ex-Gunner, Vito Mannone, could be another goalie that could get the axe, following such a shambolic performance at St. Mary’s Stadium. He epitomized a torrid display with a rash pass that was curled home by Dusan Tadic and I see Costel Pantillimon getting his Premier League debut for Sunderland today. The Gunners still have to be weary of the threat Steven Fletcher would pose and they would ignore him on their own peril.

Team News

With the shocking defensive display against Anderlecht on Wednesday night, I would be surprised if I see Nacho Monreal and Per Mertesacker play together in the heart of the defense. The Spaniard has proved that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and the sooner Calum Chambers get deployed alongside the BFG, the better for everyone. This would mean that Hector Bellerin would get a run out on the right. With Wenger confirming that he cannot give a date for Koscielny’s return, that would be a real cause for concern. I also see Mikel Arteta returning to the midfield to displace Mathieu Flamini because it’s saddening to know that the Frenchman hasn’t been in good form at all. He couldn’t even dominate a midfield of unknown players in midweek, let alone, some recognizable ones here in the Premier League.

With Wilshere suspended (thank Heavens), Tomas Rosicky or probably, Lukas Podolski would be in line to make an appearance to allow Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey strut their stuff in the middle but with the unhappy German scoring the goal that gave Arsenal all three points in midweek, I’d expect Arsene Wenger to hand him a chance to build on that cameo performance. In attack, the usual suspects, Danny Welbeck and Alexis “Work Rate” Sanchez would be odds on to add to their goals tally and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to achieve a milestone as he makes his 100th appearance for the club if he starts.

Injury Updates

Sunderland: Álvarez (knee), Coates (thigh), Giaccherini (ankle), Jones (hamstring).

Arsenal: Matt Debuchy (ankle), Olivier Giroud (foot), , Yaya Sanogo (hamstring), Mikel Arteta (calf), Mesut Ozil (knee), David Ospina (thigh), Laurent Koscielny (Achilles tendon), Abou Diaby, Serge Gnabry, Theo Walcott (lacking match fitness), Wilshere (suspended)

Team Form

Sunderland

  • Last Five Games: D L D W L
  • Last Result: Southampton 8 Sunderland 0

Arsenal

  • Last Five Games: D W L D W
  • Last Result: Anderlecht 1 Arsenal 2

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland 4-3-3 football formationArsenal 4-1-4-1 football formation

Wenger has stated that his team can find that extra degree in their game to pick up some form, Sunderland offers a perfect platform to do that. Let’s hope we wont be disappointed yet again.

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on Martin Atkinson’s Blunder and Goal Line Technology

goalline

 

The clash between Sunderland and Arsenal will be remembered for more reasons than one.

Mesut Ozil capped a scintillating debut with his first of many assists in Arsenal colors, Olivier Giroud’s first-timed finishes are becoming a stuff of legends, even a cool, calm and collected finisher like Theo Walcott can actually have a bad day at the office and Aaron Ramsey, my word, is maturing to one of the finest complete midfielders in the Premier League.

However, this article isn’t focused on all the nice stuff that happened from an Arsenal perspective but I want to share my unbiased thoughts of the moment of controversy that occurred in the 69th minute when the game was tensed up at 2-1 to Arsenal with the next goal being the all-important goal. A goal for Sunderland would have leveled the contest and brought them back into the game while a goal for Arsenal would have clinched the tie. The latter happened.

After receiving a through ball, American powerhouse, Jozy Altidore, got involved with a mini wrestling match with Arsenal’s captain of the day, Bacary Sagna, as both players tussled for the ball. With Altidore weighing more and probably more built than Sagna), he won the contest with the French defender and closed in on Wojciech Szczesny. As you would expect from an agile keeper like Szczesny, he rushed out of his line to close in the gap on Altidore but the American’s placed effort crept under Szczesny and rolled beyond the goal line but it was swept off by Carl Jenkinson (I think?).

jozy altidore goal Jozy Altidore Robbed Of A Clear Goal For Sunderland Against Arsenal [GIF]

Play actually stopped and we all thought that Atkinson was going to refer to the all-new goal line technology initiative that was recently adopted into the Premier League. Instead, Atkinson adjudged that it was a foul on Altidore outside the box and Craig Gardner blasted the resulting free kick over the bar. Shortly afterwards, the event was reconstructed on the big screen and the HawkEye goal line technology system showed that it was actually a goal, as the ball had crossed the line. To rub salt into the wound of Sunderland, Aaron Ramsey stepped up to score the third that put the game to bed.

I’m not taking anything away from Arsenal’s brilliant away performance but that goal should have stood. Had Theo Walcott converted at least two of the chances that were afforded to him in the first half, this wouldn’t have been a cause for debate because the game would have been over before the second half began. But at 2-1 down, scoring a goal that was wrongly disallowed would take its toll on the team’s morale, and in most cases, the game is always lost from there.

Permit me to take you down memory lane in a certain 2010 FIFA World Cup first knockout round fixture between Germany and England. At 2-1 down, Frank Lampard rifled in one of his trademark bullets that smashed the underside of Manuel Neuer’s bar, went beyond the goal line and crept back into play. However, the ref and his assistant didn’t see it and a crestfallen England went on to concede two more goals that sealed their elimination.

The catalyst for change: Frank Lampard's 'ghost goal' at the 2010 World Cup finally made Sepp Blatter change his mind on goal-line technology

 

In the Premier League, decisions involving goal line errors have been been a menace and in most cases, the referee’s decision not to allow the goal often results in a backlash, as the manager, players and fans alike of the affected team leave no stones unturned in voicing their frustrations.

I can’t remember the season, but Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes blasted a long-range shot that brought out the worst in Manchester United’s Roy Carroll and after he fluffed at making a simple save, the ball went beyond the line but he managed to bring it back into play. If my memory serves me right, the game ended in a goalless draw.

To err is certainly human and referees are no cyborgs but the goal line technology system was meant to help them mitigate such occurrences from happening again in the Premier League.

In Arsenal’s first game of the season against Sunderland, Fabian Delph fired a shot in the edge of the area that hit the inside of the post before it crept away. The man with the whistle, Anthony Taylor, had a stinker all game long, but he still managed to call on the all-new HawkEye Decision System and he was duly notified that the ball didn’t cross the line.

Martin Atkinson could have resorted to this and Sunderland should have gotten their rightful equalizer. Even with the game tied at 2-2, I still believed that Arsenal would have had enough in the tank to get a third and kill off the game. Many Arsenal fans wouldn’t really care that this decision went their way citing Lady Luck and all that, but if it was Olivier Giroud that had a chance that went beyond the line and was not given, the vitriol and abuse at the ref would have been incessant.

In the long term, I hope referees would have to understand that the goal line technology system is meant to assist them in making those decisions and the quicker they embrace this new system, the better for the Premier League.

They can like to practice what has been preached.

Sayonara.

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Sunderland 1 Arsenal 3: Ramsey’s Brilliance Sends Arsenal to the Summit

The man on form!

The Gunners visited the Stadium of Light in a rich vein of form but Arsene Wenger had fresh fitness concerns as Per Mertesacker fell ill while Santi Cazorla picked up an ankle injury that would sideline him till October. Bacary Sagna deputized in Mertesacker’s stead alongside Laurent Koscielny which afforded Carl Jenkinson a chance to play at right back. The game also saw new signing, Mesut Ozil, make his debut for the club and his impact was keenly felt.

Arsenal had an uncertain start to the game when a lofted ball into the box was headed into No Man’s Land by Jenkinson. The sailing ball was nodded into Arsenal’s danger area but Sagna was on hand to make a determined header that took the ball to safety. Arsenal turned the tables and instigated an attack with Ozil teeing up Theo Walcott but his cross was intercepted by Diakhite.

Arsenal’s opening goal arrived in swift fashion as Kieran Gibbs dinked a ball into Ozil’s path. The German schemer saw an onrushing Olivier Giroud with those orbicular eyes of his and he cushioned a first time pass that was finished aplomb with a neat one-timed shot from Giroud.

Ozil had a magnificent debut

Sunderland almost salvaged an equalizer from a corner kick but Diakhite’s goal-bound header glanced the cross bar and sailed effortlessly over the bar. Ozil was at it yet again with another sublime through ball to Walcott but the Englishman certainly didn’t come with his shooting boots as he fired his effort straight at Westwood.

Jozy Altidore was given a sniff at goal and he blasted a wicked shot that was parried by Wojciech Szczesny in goal. Ozil was in the thick of things as he combined superbly with Jack Wilshere and the maestro fashioned a chance for Ramsey but the Welshman’s shot was blocked.

Wilshere made one of his slalom runs and won a free kick on the edge of the area. Up stepped Ozil to take the free kick but it was easy pickings for Westwood. With Arsenal on the ascendancy, Ozil tore open the Sunderland defense with a sumptuous through ball to Walcott but the speedster fluffed the chance again.

Walcott’s miserable outing continued Giroud and Wilshere combined superbly before the Englishman lofted a neat ball for Walcott but the forward nodded the ball wide off the mark. Giroud then managed to chip the ball over the Sunderland defense but Walcott was as profligate as ever, firing his shot straight at Westwood. Ozil fired the rebound but it was blocked by the Sunderland rearguard.

Sunderland began the second half with more urgency and almost grabbed an equalizer when Ondrei Celutska sent a dangerous cross into the area but it was nodded away by Koscielny. The French defender turned from hero to villain shortly afterwards when he scythed down Adam Johnson in the box with a somewhat clumsy challenge. Craig Gardner stepped up and sent Szczesny the wrong way to level the contest.

Gardner’s penalty was superb

The equalizer injected some life into Sunderland and they took the lead when Steven Fletcher reacted quickly to dispatch Johnson’s drilled cross. However, the assistant referee’s offside flag came to Arsenal’s rescue. Mathieu Flamini lost the ball in midfield and conceded a needless foul. Gardner took responsibility for the dead ball and swung a cross that deceived everyone in the box and hit the post. Ki Sung-Yeung tried to nick it in but he was offside.

Arsenal got the lead when Jenkinson sighted Ramsey on his left and dinked the ball to the Welshman that was slammed home with a first-time shot giving Westwood no chance in Hell. It was a truly delightful goal from a player in extremely good form.

A moment of controversy arrived when Altidore wrestled off Sagna before placing a shot that crept slowly beyond the goal line but a quick sliding clearance brought the ball back into the play and the ref, Martin Atkinson, shockingly chose to blow his whistle for an infringement outside the box, much to the bewilderment of Paolo di Canio and the Sunderland faithful.

That’s goal No. 2!!!!

Arsenal rubbed salt into Sunderland’s wounds when Walcott, Ramsey, Ozil and Giroud exchanged some passes with the Handsome French Bloke providing a key through ball to Ramsey and the Welsh midfielder showed great composure to slot the ball home. A feat Theo Walcott lacked all game long.

Ramsey putting the game beyond doubt

Arsene Wenger replaced Ozil with Thomas Vermaelen and late on, Nacho Monreal came onto the pitch to put Walcott out of his misery. There was a moment for concern when Ramsey moved on the edge of the area with the ball and teed up Giroud but he suffered an injury after firing his flicked effort wide. Chuba Akpom replaced the HFB.

Understandably, Wenger lavished praise on the performances of Ozil, Giroud and Ramsey in his post-match conference. When you think of how far Ramsey has come from that player that was a lightning rod for abuses and vitriol by his own fans to this player that has become indispensable to the club, its a massive achievement.

It’s his brilliance that has sent Arsenal to the summit of the Premier League, albeit temporarily till we know the outcome of the Swansea vs. Liverpool encounter.

Sayonara.

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Sunderland vs. Arsenal Preview: Unleash the Ozil

Mesut Ozil: Set for Arsenal debut at Sunderland

After two weeks without Premier League football, the world’s most watched club competition beckons as fans will be glued to their screens in anticipation of what would be a great day of football. Sunderland ended the season on a poor note and has even began the new campaign on a poorer note.

It started with a narrow loss to Fulham on the opening day which was followed by a boring draw with Southampton but when Paolo di Canio’s side succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to newbies, Crystal Palace, the bookies started making their tips as it seems as if the Black Cats aare destined for npower Championship football is they continue at this rate.

As you would expect from a volatile manager like di Canio, he has been quick to criticize his boys in the wake of their poor start to the new campaign and he would be hopeful that they kickstart their season with a good result against an Arsenal side on fire. After that embarrassing home defeat to Aston Villa, the Gunners have won five games in a row across two competitions and the acquisition of German superstar, Mesut Ozil, has brought a renewed sense of optimism at the club.

Sunderland’s record against the Gunners is quite woeful to say the least as they have won just 8 points from their last 17 Premier League games against Arsenal and the last 6 league matches staged at the Stadium Of Light have produced only 9 goals, with Fletcher scoring nine of his away from home. The last time the Black Cats recorded a win at home against the Gunners was in the 2009/10 campaign where a Darren Bent goal was more than enough to grant them three points.

With no Bent in their ranks anymore, Sunderland looks very different under di Canio but he would be hopeful that the return of star striker, Steven Fletcher, would bring about a change in their fortunes. The Scot suffered an ankle injury as far back as March and he has been working his way to full fitness since then.

Fletcher was a massive threat for Sunderland last season as he was one of Martin O’Neill’s instrumental signings, smashing 11 goals in 28 appearances with a shooting accuracy of 65% and a clear-cut chance conversion of 46%. With the likes of Emanuele Giaccherini providing wits from the flanks and Jozy Altidore providing support, the Gunners would definitely have their work cut out.

 

To injury news, Sunderland would be without new signing Andrea Dossena (knee), Phil Bardsley (foot) and John O’Shea (suspended) and there are doubts over the fitness of Wes Brown (knee) and Giaccherini (hammy). At Arsenal, the usual suspects, Mikel Arteta (thigh), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Lukas Podolski (hamstring) and Abou Diaby (knee) are still out but they will be joined by Tomas Rosicky (thigh) and Yaya Sanogo (back) that picked up injuries during the international break.

To team news, I would expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal but Arsene Wenger would be in a dilemma on who to bring on the bench with Lukasz Fabianski and newbie, Emiliano Viviano, ready for action. I would expect Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to start in the heart of the defense but its heartwarming to know that Thomas Vermaelen has returned to full fitness and would have to make do with a place on the bench. I believe that he will be odds on to start in Arsenal’s Capital One clash with West Brom. With Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs fully fit, Carl Jenkinson and Nacho Monreal will have to watch the game from the dugout.

In midfield, Aaron Ramsey will be odds on to start and Gunners would be hopeful that his good form will continue but the conundrum would be on who would start alongside Ramsey today. While many would be tipping Jack Wilshere to get the nod, I would prefer Mathieu Flamini to play alongside the Welsh man-machine in the middle of the park because of the physicality of Sunderland’s game. Flamini has a better positional discipline than Wilshere and I believe that his presence in midfield would be vital for the Gunners.

At the tip of the midfield, everyone would be delighted to know that Arsenal’s new signing, Mesut Ozil, would be given his debut. He comes into the club after an illustrious career with Real Madrid and his stats are sickening to say the least.

In attack, Arsenal would hinge their hopes on their man in form, Olivier Giroud, that has scored in three matches in a row, although has never scored any of his 14 Premier League goals away from London. Can he match Jose Antonio Reyes’ record of scoring in each of the first 5 games of the season, as the latter did in 2004/05?

Theo Walcott has recovered from his injury scare against Ukraine and he would start on the right hand side while Santi Cazorla would strut his stuff on the left.

This is how the Gunners lineup would be,

Arsenal’s lineup today

Enjoy the game wherever you are.

Sayonara.

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5 Reasons to Look Forward to the Sunderland Clash

Santi Cazorla scored the only goal when these sides met last season

Sunderland and Arsenal had had their fair share of history with both sides playing nervy encounters whenever they meet in the Stadium of Light. As both sides are set to lock horns yet again with Sunderland scrapping in the relegation zone already while the Gunners are trying to solidify a top four place, there will be a million and one reasons to look froward to the game.

Here’s Gooner Daily’s top 5.

The Return of Premier League Football

Two weeks have passed since Arsenal’s glorious victory against their high-spending fierce rivals, Tottenham, and since then Arsenal fans had to make do with watching their heroes ply their trades for their respective nations as the 2014 World Cup qualifiers reached its climax. However, these set of fixtures came with a price as the Gunners lost Tomas Rosicky to injury while there were some concerns over the fitness of Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott.

After two weeks of classic torture as the fans waited patiently, Premier League football has returned and we will be glued to our screens yet again as the world’s most entertaining league takes center stage again.

Paolo di Canio’s Antics

Who can forget di Canio’s off the pitch celebrations against Newcastle

Since his arrival in the tail end of last season, Paolo di Canio set the Premier League ablaze with his off the pitch shenanigans and one can look no further than his antics in the derby game against Newcastle last season. Since then, di Canio has been on the spotlight as he sanctioned Phil Bardsely, began his preseason campaign earlier than normal and worked on his player’s fitness issues.

I’m pretty sure that di Canio would have something up his sleeves.

Mesut Ozil’s Debut

After joining the club for a record fee of £42.5m, Arsenal fans will get the chance to see their new No. 11 when he takes to the pitch against Sunderland from the start or from the dugout is another case left to be answered by the manager, but the mere sight of Ozil donning the Red and White will be a source of great joy for the fans.

We can only hope that things will get better from here as the acquisition of Ozil would be that lift that the club, players and fans alike needed to spearhead the Gunners for great things to come.

Another Resolute Defensive Display?

The last time both sides clashed in the Premier League in the Stadium of Light, Carl Jenkinson earned himself an early bath and Sunderland tried to make their numerical advantage count but Arsenal was taking no prisoners and the Gunners put up a valiant defensive display with Sagna becoming a colossus at the back.

Aaron Ramsey also became an emergency right back and his performance on the day earned him a lot of plaudits as well. We are certainly not hoping for another red card but a goal coupled with another resolute defensive display will grant Arsenal…

Three Precious Points

This will be the key reason to look forward to this game.

Arsenal needs to challenge for the Premier League title this season and it’s games like these that the Gunners have to show that they mean business.

Sayonara

 

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