Arsenal need to win the next two games at the Emirates and hope Liverpool drop points in their final league game at home against Middlesbrough to sneak into the top four.
Arsenal have picked up form and momentum with five wins in the last six games – including impressive victories against Manchester United, Southampton and more recently, Stoke City at the Bet365 stadium. But ultimately, it may not be enough as their destiny was snatched away from their hands after Liverpool’s emphatic win against West Ham United.
But Arsene Wenger will hope the Gunners continue to build the momentum and sustain enough pressure – while also making sure they don’t lose the former ahead of an FA Cup final against the Premier League Champions Chelsea.
Sunderland are relegated and it has been a thoroughly miserable season for the Mackems. David Moyes has mishandled the club right from the very beginning in his attempts to temper the expectations and it clearly did not work at a club which could have done with a rather healthy dose of motivation and potent signings in the winter.
They have lost four of the last six games in the league and go into it with as little confidence as they could but a memorable win in North London (they have never won at Arsenal in the Premier League era) could restore the Wear side some of their lost pride this campaign.
The major blow for Arsenal could be the potential absence of Alexis Sanchez who suffered a knock in the club’s 4-1 win against Stoke City. Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain is also another key absentee ahead of Sunderland’s visit while midfielder Santi Cazorla remains sidelined.
Sunderland have a long injury list with Honeyman and Pienaar the only two players who may make a surprise return to the squad, while McNair, Kirchoff and Watmore are all out for the remaining two games.
- If Giroud scores, he’ll be the third player to score 50 goals at the Emirates Stadium in all competitions (after Robin van Persie and Theo Walcott), while the Frenchman is also just two goals short of becoming the 19th player to score 100 goals in all competitions for Arsenal (currently 98).
- Sunderland have won just one of their last 26 Premier League fixtures against the Gunners, this coming in a 1-0 win back in November 2009 (W1 D9 L16).
- The Gunners haven’t conceded a single goal in their last three Premier League games at home – they haven’t kept four clean sheets in a row at the Emirates Stadium in the competition since February 2014 (five in a row).
- Sunderland have failed to score in 10 of their last 15 Premier League away matches.
Mesut Ozil – Arsenal
Given the fact that it is not hard to predict how the visitors will set themselves out at the Emirates – in such a way that they could close down spaces and stifle the home side, Mesut Ozil is the type of player that Arsenal will need to step up like he’s done in recent games for the Gunners to deliver the key pass or the opening goal to open up the opposition.
He’s already enjoying his most prolific campaign for Arsenal in terms of goals, but the German play-maker will need to keep the momentum alive in their next three games, including the showpiece final in Wembley, for them to end their disappointing season on a relative high.
Jermain Defoe – Sunderland
The England international has been far and away their best player – scoring 15 and assisting another 2 goals under David Moyes, which is incidentally 3 more than the rest of the squad combined. With the right service, Defoe will fancy his chances to add to his personal tally at the Emirates – and could relish it more than usual considering his Spurs background. If Sunderland were to get anything out of this fixture thereby potentially ending any hopes of a top four finish for Arsenal, the 34-year old needs to be on his game.
A comprehensive Arsenal victory to take the race for fourth to the final day of the season.