On May 20th, relegation threatened Sunderland travel to the Emirates to take on Arsenal. Both of these teams are very close to achieving goals for this season. Arsenal are a point a way from locking up automatic Champions League qualification after their draw vs Manchester United. Sunderland are just a point away from safety, something that looked unlikely a few weeks ago. The black cats could still avoid relegation even if they lose their final two games, but a point would make them officially safe. Both teams feel they are in good positions, but both want to take that next step and clinch their their respective goals in this game.
Sunderland will be without a few of their first team players going into this tough test. Ricky Alverez will be out, but he hasn’t played a lot this season. However, they will also be without Jordi Gomez, Jack Rodwell, Wes Brown, and Billy Jones, all people that have played a part for the black cats this season. Arsenal will be without both Mathieu Debuchy and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain both through hamstring injuries. Danny Welbeck will have a late fitness test as he is dealing with a knee injury.
Arsenal are undefeated in their last 10 league games against Sunderland. Sunderland have not beaten Arsenal in London since 1983. Sunderland have been the draw specialists this season with 16 of their games ending in draws, five more than any other team in the league. With all those draws, they have the fewest losses outside of the top eight, but they also have the second fewest wins. The black cats have had trouble scoring goals with only Burnley scoring fewer goals this season. The gunners on the other hand have scored the third most goals in the Premier League.
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey
Arsenal have plenty of top players, but they have struggled in their last two games. After a very poor first 60 minutes in their match against United, Arsene Wenger made a couple of changes, including moving Aaron Ramsey to his natural central position. After he was moved central, the Welshman dominated the game and showed the impact he can make on a match. His ability was on display in that one and, if he is central, I feel he can dominate once again. This will be a weaker midfield than Manchester United’s and if Ramsey plays in the engine room for 90 minutes I feel he can even win the game by himself if he has to.
Sunderland: Connor Wickham
For a team that has struggled for goals all season, Dick Advocaat needs a goalscorer to come to the fore. He’s far from perfect, but Connor Wickham is the team’s leading goalscorer in the Premier League this season. The Englishman was a key cog in Sunderland’s great escape last season and will hope to seal their survival this season with a good performance, and hopefully a goal, against the gunners.
I think this game will be quite laid back in term of play and atmosphere. Both teams know they’re in good positions and could ease up on the intensity a little bit. I see Arsenal’s quality shining through and them getting a pretty routine home win in this one.
Prediction: 2-0 Arsenal