Date: 3rd October 2008 at 11:52pm
Written by:

A difficult away test awaits Arsenal this weekend as they make the long trek up to Wearside to take on Sunderland AFC. In two short years, Roy Keane has transformed Sunderland from bottom of the Championship, to a side that attracts international superstars like Djibril Cisse. Coming off an impressive 4-0 victory midweek against FC Porto, it is imperative that Arsenal keep the intensity level extremely high as any mistake may very well be punished by this new look Sunderland attack.

Vital Quotes:

Arsene spoke about the positive attitude in the club. The pain was big but the response was good,” said Wenger. “It was important to show that Saturday was an accident.

“Looking at the League table I do not think [the Hull defeat] has too much of an impact, but it is damaging. You do not want to lose at home against anybody.

“But I believe we have a healthy attitude in the squad and that has been shown against Porto. We want to show we have learned from the defeat against Hull.

“We gave the first half of the response on Tuesday night and we want to give the other half on Saturday at Sunderland.

“When you go there, you want your team to be completely at its best and focused. I believe what happened last week will help us to do that.”

Keane had good things to say about his former rival. ‘Arsenal, as much as they have spent, have not spent anywhere near as some of the other big clubs.

‘That’s something we have to look at as a football club. We are not capable of continuing to spend £20m, £25m or £30m every transfer window.

‘That’s where your scouting network pays off, and that is something we are looking to improve. But to try to compare our system at the moment to Arsenal’s is crazy. We are a long way away yet.’

Clichy spoke about the result against Hull and the trip up to Sunderland. ‘We know we made big mistakes and the first one was to think the game was going to be easy after we scored the first goal,’ he told Sky Sports News.

‘We were not focused until the final minute.

‘That was the big mistake and I think we learned from that, but it is a real shame as we could have been top today but we are not.

‘It is just the start of the season and nothing to be worried about as we know we have got the quality to do well this year and we are going to show people and our fans that this game was just an incident and we will be putting in a good performance against Sunderland.’

Kolo talked about the game as well. ‘Roy Keane is a good coach and he has a good group of players at Sunderland.Sunderland are doing well this season. They have brought in El Hadji-Diouf and Djibril Cisse and they will be a tough team to play against, especially as they are playing at home.’

He added: ‘It’s going to be tight but we will work hard.

‘I think it’s going to be a really exciting game. Sunderland have some good players but it’s a game we have to win.’

Sunderland Team News:

Sunderland have a long injury list for this match. Striker Kenwyne Jones and defender Nyron Nosworthy are both still out with long term injuries. Teemu Tainio’s shoulder again keeps him out of Roy Keane’s squad, while Phil Bardsley (ankle) and Grant Leadbitter (concussion) will be out as well. Liam Miller face a very late fitness test. He is suffering from a groin injury.

Possible Staring XI: Gordon, McCartney, Collins, Ferdinand, Chimbonda, Richardson, Miller, Whitehead, Malbranque, Cisse, Diouf

Player to watch: Djibril Cisse

The former Liverpool striker is on a season long loan from Olympique de Marseille. His time at Liverpool didnt work out, but he is still very dangerous. For I’OM he scored 24 goals in 58 appearances, and he has already notched two goals in 5 for Sunderland.

Arsenal Team News:

Arsenal again have no new injuries to report. Alex Song’s return to fitness is a boost. Arsene gave an injury update on three long term absentees for the Gunners this week. No news on Amaury Bischoff though.

‘Diaby is very close now. He is two weeks or one week away. I think after the international break Diaby is ready to play

‘I monitor Rosicky’s progress very closely but at the moment it is very difficult to put a date on his comeback. We are not pessimistic about the future of his career but we still need more patience. If he comes back before Christmas we have done very well but I think we can achieve that, that in December he can play again.’

‘Eduardo is doing very well but is not close to play,’ said Wenger. Eduardo will be OK before Christmas, of course.’

Possible Starting XI: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Walcott, Song, Fabregas, Nasri, Van Persie, Adebayor

Player to watch: William Gallas

Billy has come under heavy criticism again by the Arsenal supporters this year. He will need to produce a strong preformance to keep Cisse and Diouf in check.

Match Facts & Stats

Arsenal have not lost successive Premier League games in 52 matches.

Arsenal have won 2 away games this year while Sunderland has already lost 2 home games

Arsenal have won 6 straight games against Sunderland in all competitions

Last year Arsenal won both the home and away matches against the Black Cats, 3-2 and 1-0 respectively.

Ref Watch:

Lee Mason will be the head official for this match. He has only refereed one Barclay’s Premier League game this season, Hull City v Everton, and he only handed out one yellow card in that affair.

Match Prediction:

This will be a very tough match for Arsenal because Keane will certainly have his talented troops fired up for this one. If Arsenal can play with the high intensity level that we saw for most of the Porto game then I think we can come out 2-1 or 3-1 victors from the Stadium of Light.

Next Fixtures:

After this, European Football goes on another international break. Really how many of these can they squeeze into the first 2 months of the season?

18/10– Everton(H)– Premier League

21/10– Fenerbahce(A)– Champions League

26/10– West Ham(A)– Premier League