ADAM JOHNSON insists Sunderland are capable of getting the better of inconsistent Arsenal this weekend.
Sunderland slumped to a late defeat at strugglers Reading last Saturday to bring a galling conclusion to the Black Cats’ three-match unbeaten run.
But Johnson believes Sunderland can get back on track against fifth placed Arsenal at the Stadium of Light on Saturday, with the Gunners winning just two of their last six Premier League encounters.
After beating Manchester City and drawing with Liverpool on their own patch this season, Johnson says Sunderland have proved they are capable of competing with the elite clubs this season.
“We beat Man City at home this season and we’ve had a couple of good results – and good performances too – against the top teams,” said the England winger.
“We are capable of beating anyone at home if we play to our capabilities and that’s what we have got to be looking to do.
“I think when you play against the top teams, it often seems to be the case that players raise their game.
“Maybe it makes you more determined to be on your game because, if not, you know that the top teams will punish you. You can’t lose concentration for a single second.
“Arsenal will come and want to attack and if we can exploit the spaces they leave then I’m sure we will create chances.”
Johnson admits the defeat at Reading still rankles after Sunderland blew the chance to break into the top half of the table for the first time this season.
January signings Alfred N’Diaye and Danny Graham (twice) both spurned opportunities for the Black Cats before Jimmy Kebe’s second goal of the game secured a 2-1 win for the Royals.
Johnson said: “The defeat was tough to take, to be honest. The lads were gutted at the end.
“I know Reading have picked up a bit of form, but we still should be beating them – or definitely not losing the game.
“We went into the game looking to get three points, but it’s not always that simple in the Premier League, as we know.
“If we had won there, the table would have looked even better for us.
“But that’s the way it goes. We just have to forget about it now and get on with the next game.”
Johnson set up all three of those second-half chances for Sunderland after being shifted to the right wing following the introduction of sub James McClean.
The £10million summer signing has alternated flanks throughout his six months at the Stadium of Light, but insists he has no preference over where he is used by Martin O’Neill.
“I don’t mind, to be honest,” added the 25-year-old. “The strikers would probably say that I’m best on the left for crosses, but it’s not just about that these days – it’s also about cutting inside and linking up with the frontmen.
“At Reading, I probably looked more dangerous when I went over to the right towards the end.
“That’s when I got a few crosses in and caused them a lot more problems.”