The early kick-off on Saturday this weekend features Arsenal’s trip to the North East to face Sunderland. They will be expected to beat the team that are currently bottom of the table and bounce back from the disappointing draw against Middlesbrough last weekend. It will be a close battle for the title this season and there is no reason why the Gunners can’t be contenders. However, it is crucial that they win matches like these ones.
David Moyes is under pressure at Sunderland and many supporters are already calling for change in manager before it is too late. They have taken just two points from their opening nine matches and they will need to perform another miraculous escape. Although Moyes hasn’t covered himself in glory, he wasn’t helped by the lack of ambition that was shown in the transfer window. The squad at the club isn’t great and even if they change manager, it is difficult to see them avoiding a real fight for survival.
This fixture has been dominated by Arsenal in recent seasons, with Sunderland’s last league victory over the Gunners coming in 2009. The form book suggests that they won’t be able to stop that bad run this weekend and another loss could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Moyes. His career has regressed since he left Everton and he may find it hard to get another Premier League job if he fails to turn it around at Sunderland.
Sunderland have yet to win a Premier League match this season, which shouldn’t be surprising as they have been slow starters in recent seasons. Their problem has been scoring goals as they have only found the back of the net on six occasions, the lowest total in the league. The Black Cats have lost their last two matches and it looks unlikely that their struggles will end this weekend.
On the other hand, Arsenal have recovered well after taking just one point from their opening two matches. Their side looks well balanced and they have established themselves in the top three of the league. The Gunners have won six of their last seven matches and will be looking to extend that impressive run of form this weekend.
Adnan Januzaj is closing in on a first team return and could be involved in some capacity this weekend. The side picks itself as there are a number of key players out with injury. They need to correct that over the coming weeks or their task of climbing up the table will become ever harder.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be pushing for a start this weekend after an excellent display in the EFL Cup. I still expect Theo Walcott to start against Sunderland due to his recent goal-scoring form, but there is genuine competition for places.
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Vito Mannone is closing in on a return, but Jordan Pickford could retain the number one spot. Lee Cattermole could be involved this weekend after a back injury. Seb Larsson, Fabio Borini, Jan Kirchhoff and Jason Denayer will all miss out this weekend.
Lucas Perez won’t be involved this weekend after suffering an ankle injury during the week. Santi Cazorla is also on the sidelines, which will provide Mohamed Elneny with another opportunity to impress. Chuba Akpom, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are all set to miss out. Granit Xhaka will serve the final match of his suspension.
Although I feel bad for David Moyes, I don’t think things will get better for him this weekend and I expect Arsenal to get the win. They have looked very good in the final third this season and they should be able to get a few goals this weekend. Sunderland have been conceding fewer goals recently, but this Arsenal side will be too strong and it could be the defeat that makes Moyes’ position untenable.
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