Saturday, 20 February 2010

Sunderland preview

We welcome Sunderland to the Grove today for what should be a regulation three points, but with the way Wednesday's result went, who can expect any sort of consistency from this Arsenal side.

Six points separate us and Chelsea, five with Manchester United and despite the result in Porto, I expect a home win this afternoon.

A month has past since we beat Bolton on that Wednesday night in January, and we have gone through the motions of losing our FA Cup tie with Stoke, drew with Villa at their place, lost against our major Premier League rivals Manchester United and Chelsea, beat Liverpool at the Grove and then the Porto defeat.

To say our form has been a bit rocky for the past month would be an understatement.

However the one positive is that despite the way we have ended up with few or no points from league fixtures, our performances haven't been too bad.

The problem, as I see it, is that while the new formation 4-3-3 being good for us in an attacking sense, it hasn't helped when we don't have the ball.

Our left hand side is too often exposed, and Clichy is left with sometimes three men to mark. This is a problem that has yet to be fixed, even though Wenger must have analysed the data that would have told him how many goals we have conceded from our left hand side.

When Diaby and Nasri play in front of him, they often don't pick up the opposition right back, or seem to know who their man is. It is an unbelievable scenario to be in. It is not as if the opposition don't target Clichy and our left. I can only hope that Wenger can make some changes to ensure that the threat is minimised.

With Diaby out of today's game with a medial knee ligament injury, you would expect Song to come straight back into the side and replace him in the holding role.

Gallas is also out, so Sol Campbell will keep his place in defence.

Almunia will have a fitness test and you would expect him to come back into the side at the expense of Fabianski.

The others left in the injury room for the Porto match - Arshavin and Eduardo - are not fit to play the Black Cats and will keep long term absentees Robin Van Persie, Kieran Gibbs and Johan Djourou company.

So I expect the team to be: Almunia, Sagna, Campbell, Vermaelen, Clichy, Fabregas, Song, Denilson, Rosicky, Bendtner, Nasri.

There are some who expect Ramsey to come in for Denilson for this one, given it is at home and against a side who are 13th in the table.

But even though I think he deserves the games, I can't see it when realistically we still have a chance in the league.

Manchester United are away at Everton in the early kick off (12:45), while Chelsea take on Wolves at Molineux.

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