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Preview: Sunderland v Arsenal, duo ruled out, Ox starts + prediction
Arsenal will be looking to get back to winning ways in the Premier League when we take on Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on Saturday lunchtime.
Last weekend’s 0-0 draw at home to Middlesbrough was hugely frustrating as we blew the chance to open up a two point lead at the top of the table.
The good news is that Man City and Tottenham also dropped points so we’re still sitting joint top and with Liverpool and Chelsea also right in the mix, it’s gearing up to be a thrilling title race.
We eased in to the quarter finals of the EFL Cup with a 2-0 win over Reading on Tuesday night but Arsene Wenger has made it clear our focus is on the league, and rightly so.
On paper, this should be a ‘banker’ as Sunderland sit rock bottom of the table on just two points with David Moyes’ side yet to win a single game this season, however, we all know football is never that simple.
Ramsey is back in the squad after recovering from the hamstring injury that’s kept him out since the opening weekend of the season but the Welshman is only expected to be on the bench.
Walcott is expected to miss the trip to the Stadium of Light after not training today due to a hamstring injury but the winger should be back for next week’s Champions League game at Ludogorets.
Monreal is also a major doubt tomorrow because of a thigh problem so Gibbs is set to start at left-back but Cazorla did take part in full training today after overcoming an achilles injury.
Xhaka remains suspended while Perez has been cruelly ruled out for up to eight weeks after suffering ankle ligament damage against Reading so he joins Welbeck, Mertesacker and Akpom on the sidelines.
Giroud made his return in midweek but I expect he’ll be on the bench again as Sanchez is one of a number of key players who’ll return after being rested in midweek.
The big call is whether to risk Cazorla but the good news is did train today so must be close to full fitness. The Spaniard was a huge miss last week so I’d be inclined to start him tomorrow and rest him at Ludogorets in midweek.
Oxlade-Chamberlain should continue on the right wing if Walcott is ruled out while the rest of the team picks itself.
Like I said earlier, on paper this should be a relatively straightforward win but there are no ‘easy’ games in the Premier League and despite their poor results, most of Sunderland’s games have been very close with only a goal in it. They’ve only conceded more than 1 goal in 3 of their last 10 games, which isn’t bad for a side rock bottom and without a win, so I think this game will be closer than some expect. I’m going for a narrow 1-0 win. Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal.
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