Wise Men Say: If Sunderland press Arsenal tomorrow, they won’t like it

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Five games to go and 15 points to play for. I’m not deluded enough to think we can win them all, but there’s no reason why we can’t.

I was trying to recall the last time Sunderland failed to show up for a game.

We had a poor 80 minutes against Liverpool at Anfield and I think that was down to Liverpool playing well and Sunderland not quite setting up right on the day.

Having said that, we still got out with a point.

You probably have to cast your mind back as far as Watford or Bournemouth at the Stadium of Light late last year for our last real no-show.

That is testament to the work done on and off the field by the management and players in the last five months or so.

An excellent transfer window followed by application, determination and a little bit of quality at the right times and we’ve seen Sunderland give themselves a real chance of survival.

Come tomorrow afternoon, we’ll have games in hand on both Norwich and Newcastle and the focus has to be to take advantage of that.

The sooner you get your wins the more the pressure will ease and it would be nice if we followed up that terrific result at Carrow Road by beating Arsenal this weekend.

Arguably, of our remaining five fixtures, Arsenal are the only side we face with anything to play for. But we all know Big Sam loves to face Arsene Wenger and we’ve seen his Bolton sides frustrate the Gunners at this stage of the season in past campaigns.

We actually played alright in our encounters at the Emirates over the Christmas period.

In the league and FA Cup, the lads went down 3-1, but we could have got something out of both games, in particular the league game.

Now we have the strength, resolve and consistency that was lacking back then, why not approach this game thinking we can take all the points?

Arsenal won’t like to be pressed high up the field and, with Cattermole and Kirchhoff very much on the front foot in our current set-up, they might find it tough in what should be a terrific atmosphere at the Stadium of Light.

Wahbi Khazri wasn’t at the peak of his powers last Saturday, but I don’t think he should be dropped for Duncan Watmore.

The youngster’s impact was crucial last weekend, but we’ve seen him struggle from the start since he became a regular first-team fixture.

Also, Khazri has done enough since his arrival to warrant his starting place and it would be harsh to drop him after one average game.

If Sunderland can get in front then a play like Watmore late in the game becomes to important in terms of relieving pressure and becoming our main attacking threat on the break, so it would be best to keep him in reserve.

There are lots of ifs and buts at this stage of the season, but it’s still in Sunderland’s hands.

Let’s look at tomorrow as a great opportunity and take it with both of them.

* The Wise Men Say podcast is available from every Monday, with SAFC debate from a variety of guests and post-match reaction. You can stream it direct from wisemensay.co.uk or subscribe to it on iTunes