The Gunners sit four points behind Liverpool―with a match in hand―and three behind Manchester City and need to keep winning to have any chance of qualifying for next year’s UEFA Champions League. Fortunately for the team, Tuesday’s opponents shouldn’t present much of a threat.
Sunderland are already relegated and sit last in the standings. Other than pride and perhaps a move to a different team, the Black Cats players have nothing left to play for.
According to Fantasy Football Scout, Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Alexis Sanchez remain doubts for Tuesday’s match. The latter suffered a thigh injury in the win over Stoke City, but he scored after picking up the knock, indicating the setback is minor.
Jason Denayer and Victor Anichebe both were substituted with injuries in the match against Swansea City, and there are questions regarding their availability.
Possible Arsenal XI: Petr Cech, Rob Holding, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka, Nacho Monreal, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck
Possible Sunderland XI: Jordan Pickford, Javier Manquillo, John O’Shea, Lamine Kone, Billy Jones, Didier Ndong, Jason Denayer, Sebastian Larsson, Victor Anichebe, Jermain Defoe, Fabio Borini
Arsenal have won their last three matches since a loss against rivals Tottenham Hotspur, keeping their chances of Champions League football alive. They beat Stoke in their last outing and will want to serve up a similar performance against the lowly Black Cats.
Hector Bellerin was determined to keep things going:
Sunderland were beaten by an in-form Swansea City team in their previous match and beat Hull City the week before. The Black Cats have seemingly enjoyed playing without the pressure of a relegation scrap, but they still don’t figure to be in Arsenal’s league.
Winning the midfield battle shouldn’t be too difficult, but breaking down the wall Sunderland are expected to put up might be. Firing in countless crosses might not be a great idea―the aerial battle isn’t the Gunners’ strong suit―and there won’t be too many opportunities for the counter, either.
Instead, Arsenal should turn toward quick passing around the box, relying on the brilliance of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to pull the defence out of position. On the road at the Emirates Stadium, communication will be an issue for the Sunderland defence―if the ball moves quickly enough, there will be space to work with.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Sunderland