Friday, May 24, 2024

Sunderland preview: three points a must

Morning all,

it’s Sunderland in the Premier League today, a game which we need to take three points from, and one that has proved difficult in seasons past.

The team news is mixed. Arsene Wenger is hopeful that Laurent Koscielny will be fit after limping out of France’s midweek game against Germany, but with Thomas Vermaelen definitely ruled out with an ankle problem then it highlights how we’re living on the edge a bit in terms of central defenders. The boss says:

The options are restricted, I will have to be creative. We have Iggy Miquel, we have Sagna who can play there and Jenkinson on the right, so we will see. But we have very good hope that Koscielny will be available. He had a scan that was quite reassuring so he will have a test.

The thing is, if it’s a risk, it’s a much bigger risk than it might normally be to play him. With Johan Djourou gone on loan, and talk of Andre Santos being shipped off to Gremio for 6 months, if we force the issue with Koscielny today and he has a bad reaction then we’re in a bit of trouble. With Bayern on the horizon, and Monreal not eligible for the Champions League, then we could find ourselves short.

What’s interesting is that when discussing the possible options he has mentioned youth, in Miquel, and a bit of creativity by moving Sagna, but no mention whatsoever of Squillaci. Which is some kind of comfort really, but even so, I still find the decision to let Djourou go a strange one. Last season we had the unprecedented situation when all four of our established full backs were out injured at the same time. Therefore, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that could happen with our centre-halves. Although he has had his struggles, he was about as good a 4th choice centre-half as you’ll get.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come back and bite us in the arse. As I mentioned yesterday it might be a chance for someone like Miquel to show he’s ready. He’s been on the fringe of the first team for a while now, without being able to make that final step, and often it’s a case that injury provides the required opportunity. Other than that Aaron Ramsey is available, as is Tomas Rosicky, but Gervinho, back from African Cup of Nations duty, has been given some time off and won’t be in the squad today.

This is a game which I suspect will be quite tight. Sunderland have conceded just 12 goals at home this season, only three teams in the league have a better record than that, and away from home we’ve struggled to score as many as we should. We’ve banged in 33 at the Emirates, but only 16 on our travels, all of which suggests this isn’t going to be a particularly high scoring encounter.

We know what Martin O’Neill’s teams are all about, they’ll work hard, get men behind the ball, and look to hit us on the break or from set-pieces where former Gunner Seb Larsson’s delivery is always dangerous. I mentioned the pitch, I have no idea what it’s like and I can’t believe it’s as bad as last season, but it still may not lend itself to our slick passing game.

Which means we’re going to have to scrap this one out. There’s plenty of fight in the team, epitomised by Jack Wilshere, and even Theo Walcott showed some stones last weekend having been on the receiving end of some stuff from an Orc. But that has to be coupled with the quality we possess. There are goals in the team, Giroud is scoring, Podolski, Cazorla, Walcott, Wilshere, there’s plenty there to hurt Sunderland with, and hurt them we must.

It’s a game from which we’ve really got to take three points. The margin for error now is as tight as it possibly can be. Sp*rs have a very winnable game this morning, Liverpool face West Brom on Monday, while Everton face Man Utd so we’ve got to keep up and then put some pressure on those around us. We’ve won 2 of our last 3 league games, we have to make that 3 from 4 today and start building the momentum required to get us where we need to be by the end of the season.

Come on you reds who will probably be in the purple abomination.

Aside form that, there’s some interesting stuff from Arsene on blood testing in football, and a reference to the Spanish trial that is ongoing:

What I’m concerned about in the trial of the Spanish doctor is that he is in front of the justice just to see how he did the doping. They are not interested at all in who he has doped.

They have found pockets of blood but they don’t even ask who it belongs to. The justice should go deeper.

I think you need to have your head in the sand to believe that football is untouched by doping. We can scoff all we want at other sports and their inability to deal with the problem, but football’s outlook seems to be there is no problem to even consider, and that’s surely naive. By all means look at cycling, athletics and other individual sports where it seems obvious that having an edge might be the difference between success and failure, but what of a team that can run longer, harder, faster and recover better from matches and/or injuries.

It’s hardly a stretch to think that clubs, for whom success now means more money, might engage in such practices, even with select individuals. The most important players. Still, I don’t think it’s something we’ll see until there’s a scandal, and I’d be surprised if there wasn’t one sooner or later.

Don’t forget if you can’t see the game later we’ll have full live blog coverage with thanks to Paddy Power. Check back later for all the details or you can bookmark the default live blog page which will update automatically (it works on all browsers, phones, tablets etc).

And if you want to have a flutter, sign up with Paddy Power, bet £10, get £20. Click here to register.

Right, time for some breakfast, until later.

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