Sunderland-Arsenal: Black Cats have to keep the faith

Arsenals danger pair of Mesut �zil, second left, and Alexis S�nchez, second right.
Arsenals danger pair of Mesut �zil, second left, and Alexis S�nchez, second right.
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Sunderland to beat Arsenal? “Don’t be absurd” I can hear you shout, or similar sentiments.

Bottom plays host to joint top at the Stadium of Light tomorrow when the presence of the Sky Sports cameras makes for an early start.

If Sunderland are to get anything tomorrow, be warned, Arsenal ALWAYS play to the end

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Arsenal arrive on Wearside highly placed and highly motivated – while many a pundit talks of a title race between Liverpool and Man City, Arsene Wenger quite fancies a first Premier crown since 2004.

“I believe we have a competitive team in a very competitive league,” said Wenger, who reckons the title will be won with between 82 and 86 points.

The Gunners have 20 points a quarter of the way into the season and if they are to get into the bracket the boss says will win it, they will want/ need three tomorrow at the Stadium of Light.

Writing this piece on a weekly basis has, at times, been a test – finding three areas in which Sunderland may get the better of the opposition has not easy.

Is it a mission impossible against Wenger’s all stars? Read on for three areas Sunderland must get right.

Sunderland must play for the full 90 and more:

Stating the obvious here, not for the first occasion, but the Black Cats have form in this area.

Four times this season, they have conspired to chuck away points late in the day.

OK, those points dropped would not have taken them out of the bottom three but they would at least have been breathing down the necks of Boro, instead of being five points adrift.

If Sunderland are to get anything tomorrow, be warned, Arsenal ALWAYS play to the end.

Only Liverpool (with 28) have scored more 90th-minute winning Premier goals than the Gunners (23).

Black Cats need to frustrate Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez.

Of course, Arsenal will have more than just two match-winners in their squad of 18 at the Stadium of Light.

But when these two fellas are in the mood, they are a danger to anyone.

The duo are world class and if they tick, then so do the Gunners.

But when they are ‘looked after’ then Wengers’ side are not nearly as slick, as proven at Burnley where Sean Dyche’s side were both organised and resolute.

Özil and Sánchez looked frustrated and unable to flourish and they must be the men to target tomorrow.

Keep the faith:

At no location, anywhere in top-line football, has faith been tested, questioned, call it what you will.

But both players and fans must do it tomorrow – and every Saturday.

A look through the list of 18 Gunners tomorrow will be a frightening experience.

However, they can be pushed/ extended by sides at the wrong end of the table.

Just last weekend, Boro ventured to the Emirates and returned with a point.

Yes, it was backs to the wall a little, the hosts shading possession (75% to 25%!) but the busier keeper was Petr Cech, who made more saves than Victor Valdes.

And recently, Arsenal were lucky to emerge from Turf Moor with the three points, via a controversial Laurent Koscielny goal.

For all their attacking flair, Wenger does not grumble at a 0-0 – no team has kept more clean sheets in the top flight than Arsenal in 2016.

“When you cannot win, you must not lose,” observed le gaffer.

Sunderland must take encouragement from that and they must believe they can get a result – just half a dozen home matches ago, the Gunners came to Wearside light years in front of the Cats, but on the day, the hosts were the better side.