Sunday, 24 April 2016

Arsenal's Trip To Sunderland Previewed

It's difficult to write about any Arsenal game at the moment without wondering what could and should have been this season. The lack of transfer activity last summer had been predicted by one and all to come back to haunt us and it's impossible to believe it hasn't done just that. I thought Arsenal needed to add at least two or three outfield players on top of Petr Cech, but it just didn't happen.

With so many of the other top clubs struggling this season Arsenal very nearly got away without signing those players and they would have done if they had just signed a striker worthy of the name. I read a fascinating piece on Arseblog news which shows just how bad Arsenal have been in front of goal this season and how few of their chances in the box they have taken. With the right striker signed last summer it's hard to think they wouldn't have added to the leads they had in games like the ones at home to Swansea or Palace.

Wins in those games would nearly have been enough to keep Arsenal in the mix right up until the end of the season. A 20 goal a season striker is what the doctor ordered and Arsenal could not deliver. There were strikers out there who might have fitted that bill and Javier Hernandez is one who immediately springs to mind.

We are where we are though and we can't change that. It's the annual fight to finish in the top four and secure a Champions League spot for us and nothing else. Barring a miracle we'll finish behind Spurs for the first time in 20 years and we can only hope Leicester hold their nerve to deny them the title.

With four games to go Arsenal are strong favourites to finish in the top four and maybe even third, but their two away games will probably decide their fate. The second last game of the season is a trip to City and that offers those chasing both us and City some hope in their attempts to close the gap. I think it will be a close run finish and the outcome of today's game could well have a significant impact on that race.

Sunderland need a point today to move out of the bottom three on goal difference and a win would give them some real hope in their attempt to beat the drop. They won 3-0 away to Norwich last week by defending in depth and hitting them on the break and we can expect more of the same today. Jermain Defoe knows how to find the back of the net and he could well punish us if he gets the opportunities. 

Arsene Wenger made a few changes against West Brom on Thursday night after the points dropped against Palace last Sunday. The chances are he will do so again today and I wouldn't be surprised to see Danny Welbeck come back into the team. Olivier Giroud was an onlooker in the first half as Arsenal played around him, but he did better after the break. 

He didn't put away the chances he had though and he hasn't scored a Premier League goal in over three months now. Welbeck's finishing hasn't been great either, but he offers an awful lot more in the overall scheme of things for me. There's always the possibility of Theo Walcott getting the nod, but I would doubt that very much.

Sam Allardyce has never been relegated as a manager and he won't want that record to go this season. His teams have always been fond of roughing us up given the chance and they will surely try to do so again today. We need to be strong and stand up to any physical challenge as well as playing our own game.

A defeat for Arsenal would mean they can no longer mathematically win the league, but that ship has long since sailed. Even if they do win I think Leicester will beat Swansea later in the day to put the final nail in our coffin. It's been a season to forget for Arsenal and the sooner it's over the better.

Despite his repeated failings the manager is going nowhere and we can only hope he gets it right this summer. It's hard to put your trust in someone who failed so miserably this season and it could well be a forlorn hope. It has to at least be a busy summer in the transfer market as there are so many players who need to move on and those places at least need to be filled besides the purchases the squad so desperately needs.

As for today, I know we can beat Sunderland but equally I know our ability to shoot ourselves in the foot. I no longer have the confidence in the team I used to have, but I will still be cheering for them from first minute to last. Fans of other clubs tell me they would give anything to be in our position, but that doesn't make it any easier when you see how we have folded yet again this season. Third place would ease the pain just a little, but it's going to take a long time to get this season out of my mind.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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