On January ninth, FA Cup holders Arsenal welcome Sunderland to Emirates Stadium and will begin their defense of the FA Cup. The Gunners will look to win the competition for the third year in a row. Their 12 FA Cup wins are more than any other club in history, and they’ll look to extend that record this year. Sunderland on the other hand have not won the competition since 1973. Their last FA Cup final was in 1992 where they lost 2-0 to Liverpool.
Sunderland will be without four players through injury. They’ll be missing former Tottenham defender Younes Kaboul as he recovers from a hamstring injury. On top of that, they’ll be without former Arsenal youngster Sebastian Larsson, Jack Rodwell, and Adam Matthews.
Arsenal will be without quite a few players. Danny Welbeck, Jack Wilshere, Francis Coquelin, and Santi Cazorla are all out with long term injuries. Both Alexis Sanchez and Tomas Rosicky were in training this week. Rosicky will likely still be out for a couple of weeks, but Sanchez could make his return.
The last time these two sides met in the FA Cup was in the fifth round in 2012. On that day, Sunderland ran out 2-0 victors. That is the last time the Black Cats have beaten the Gunners and are winless in their last seven matches against them. In the league, Sunderland have lost eight out of their 10 away games whereas Arsenal have only lost one of 10. In his two years at the club, Mesut Ozil has never lost an FA Cup game at Arsenal and the Gunners have never lost a domestic cup game where he has started. Mathieu Flamini has never lost a game at Emirates Stadium in either of his two stints at the club.
Arsenal: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
After scoring the only goal in Arsenal’s Community Shield triumph against Chelsea it looked like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would finally have his breakout season. Sadly for him it hasn’t turned out that way. The 22 year old has struggled when he’s been given the chance to play this season. His final product has not been good enough and he seems to be struggling for confidence at the moment. Despite putting in a sub par performance against Newcastle, there is a good chance that he will get the start in the FA Cup tie. He knows he’ll need to put in a good performance and he is capable of some special moments.
Sunderland: Jermain Defoe
Sunderland have lacked a truly reliable goalscorer for some time now. During the summer of 2012, they brought in Steven Fletcher for 12m, but that hasn’t turned out as they would have hoped. They’ve struck out with other strikers since then like Danny Graham, Connor Wickham, and Fabio Borini. Jermain Defoe hasn’t been spectacular and hasn’t been enough to get them out of the relegation battle they’ve been fighting for the last four years, but his goal scoring record of 13 in 36 since joining the club isn’t bad. He’s been as close to a reliable source of goals as they’ve had. As a former Tottenham player, he’ll be hearing the boos from the Arsenal fans from minute one. He’ll be hoping to give them something to boo at some point in the game.
A lot of this will come down to what type of team Arsenal put out. A full strength Arsenal side at home should push a Sunderland side away pretty easily. But this is Arsenal’s best chance at the title in years. They have a legitimate chance to win the league, so they’ll likely look to rest players in this one. Even a half strength Arsenal side should be able to beat Sunderland at home, but the likely rotated side will give the Black Cats a chance.
Prediction: 2-1 Arsenal