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Feb 08 2013

Match Preview: Sunderland AFC v Arsenal FC – 9 Feb 2013

Sunderland vs Arsenal

The Gunners may be firing blanks with no trophies for seven years, but they remain one of the most successful clubs in English football having won 13 League titles, 10 FA Cups, 13 FA Community/Charity Shields and 2 League Cups. Arsenal also hold the record for the longest uninterrupted period in the English top tier and would be placed first in an aggregated league table for the 20th century.

In fact they were only the second side to complete an English top flight season unbeaten in 2003–04 and the only one to do so across 38 matches – being nicknamed the ‘Invincibles’ in the process. However, such success is a doubled edged sword and Arsene Wenger is coming under increasing pressure, despite being the club’s longest-serving manager and their most successful, having led Arsenal to 11 trophies since his appointment in 1996. It’s the kind of failure that most Mackems dream of enduring.

At last season’s corresponding fixture Arsenal legend, Thierry Henry, scored the winner in the dying seconds during his farewell Premiership appearance, firing his 175th goal in 259 appearances for the Gunners. Although he has gone, a number of threats remain including Theo Walcott (18 goals), the ever improving Oliver Giroud (14 goals) with fleet-footed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere proving the ammunition for the Gunners. Perhaps Sunderland should seek support from Arsenal Ladies, the most successful team in English women’s football having won all three major English trophies and the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2009. It’s a unique quadruple that Wenger and Martin O’Neill can only dream of.

Scoring goals remain a problem for Sunderland and for this reason I hope the Stadium of Light crowd gives Danny Graham a warm welcome and forget his comments made several years ago whilst at Watford. In fact, the animosity from some supporters was commented on in the Mail on Sunday with them being labeled ‘morons.’ I believe Graham can win over the fans given a fair chance, just as Paul Bracewell and more notably Barry Venison did on Tyneside, despite staying loyal to his Mackem roots throughout his Newcastle career. In addition, Chris Waddle always told the press he was a Sunderland fan. So come on Red & White army and show your class.

Goals win games and apparently the penny has finally dropped with Martin O’Neill who last week outlined his thoughts to The North East HUB following the signing of Graham:

“We may be able to deploy Fletcher in a different role… We’ll develop something with them – I don’t see it being a problem… Steven Fletcher, although he’s been brilliant as a centre-forward, I think can drop in and easily play in another position… We’ll see what develops with the two of them playing together.”

It’s also pleasing to note that Connor Wickham who scored his fourth goal in five games for England under-21’s as they beat Sweden in midweek, continues to develop. He just needs playing time for the Black Cats alongside a quality striker – and Sunderland now arguably have two, or go out on on loan. However, without a creative and positive midfield even Lionel Messi would struggle to make an impact and unless this is addressed, Sunderland will be goners’ against the Gooners.

Prediction: A Draw, emulating the 0-0 result achieved at the Emirates in August 2012.

Tell us what you think and if you correctly predict the result and you can WIN a day-of-promotion courtesy of The North East HUB.’