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Arsenal v Sunderland – the match preview

By Phil Gregory

Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

Untold Arsenal on Facebook here

A 5-0 victory was one of the better ways to react after losing in a final, even if it was against lower league side Leyton Orient. I was impressed with the manner of the victory, having expected a cagier victory with a stronger team. Conor Henderson made his debut in what is an almost yearly Arsenal tradition now, the youngster coming from nowhere to make his bow.

In the 08-09 season, Jack Wilshere broke Fabregas’ “youngest player to appear in the Premier League” records and last season, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas started up front against Stoke in the Cup. Henderson’s FA Cup start came similarly out of the blue and with a few injuries up front and out wide the youngster may well have a squad role to play during the Premier League run-in.

We haven’t had the best of results against Sunderland in recent times – one win in five – and we got Dowd-ed at the Stadium of Light early on in the season. With Manchester United travelling to Anfield on Sunday we need to improve on that record and take advantage.

A cause for positivity would be Sunderland’s struggles during February, when they lost all four of their Premier League games. That said, it included home games against Chelsea and Tottenham with away ties at Everton and Stoke, so not the easiest run of fixtures. They come into this game on the back of a good weeks rest, though to be fair few (if any) of our players who played in midweek will be involved.

On the injury front, Song has been confirmed to be out of the match with Sunderland. Koscielny is rated as a doubt with a hamstring problem. Van Persie has been ruled out for the month of March with a knee injury while Theo continues his spell on the sidelines along with Vermaelen.

The sole positive is the news that Aaron Ramsey is included in the squad after a successful loan spell in Cardiff. Options in the “Cesc role” are a little light in the absence of the man himself so the return of the Welsh international is a boost in that regard.

Sunderland are equally cursed with injuries. Defensive rock Michael Turner is out, while on-loan Manchester City defender Nedum Onouha is out with calf trouble. Fortunately for our injury list going forward red card specialist Lee Cattermole is out of the tie. He’s joined on the physio’s table by forwards Frazier Campbell and Zenden. In-form loanee Danny Welbeck is a doubt and will likely be included in the starting line-up if passed fit.

Watch Arsenal Live Streams With


Sagna Djourou Koscielny (Squillaci) Clichy

Wilshere Diaby


Nasri Bendtner Arshavin

Even with the Barcelona match looming on the horizon, we aren’t in a situation in the Premier League where we can afford to rest players.  We have to give ourselves the best possible chance to take three points from every game and that requires playing the strongest available eleven

Despite his mistake in the final I expect we’ll see Szcznesy back in goal, behind a strong back four of Sagna, Djourou, Clichy and Koscielny. The latter has apparently been hit very hard by his part in Birmingham’s winning goal but the best way to bounce back would be a commanding performance before heading off to Catalonia. His hamstring injury is not yet cleared up, so expect Squillaci to step in the event Koscielny isn’t passed fit.

Song’s absence results in a bit of a shake-up in midfield. I expect Diaby to come into the line-up in place of our Cameroonian international after a good performance in midweek. He might be a little short of match fitness given his lay-off, but he performed well against Orient and offers a good physical alternative to Song. Wilshere continues next to Diaby, with Rosicky further forward.

Up front Bendtner is likely to get the nod at centre forward after his hat trick in midweek, though may be handled with care if he is deputising for Van Persie. Nasri and Arshavin should flank the Dane – ideally we’d be able to withdraw two of our three forwards after sixty minutes with the Barca game in mind.

Sunderland aren’t a side who travel well, and their European ambitions have been fatally damaged by their recent losing run. Despite our injuries, they shouldn’t pose too much difficulty given they have a fair number players missing themselves. A fairly comfortable 2-0 win for the Arsenal is my prediction

Title watch: While Sunderland isn’t our game in hand over United, our three o’clock kick off means we have the opportunity to draw within a point of United before their Sunday tie at Anfield. United’s away form has been poor this season, averaging less than a point and a half per away game. While that suggests that (statistically) a loss at Stamford Bridge might be followed with a win at Anfield, the average belies the difficulty of those two fixtures. With their away record, you can’t expect United to get much from Anfield, and I expect most Mancunians would take a draw right now. Any dropped points would be ideal for the Gunners, but another loss might just cause an element of doubt to creep into the United camp.

With Vidic suspended and Ferdinand unlike to be fit, it will be a makeshift United backline that travels to Anfield. It’s not unreasonable to expect that big money signing Suarez will trouble a thrown together United back line, while the physicality of Andy Carroll may yet be unleashed for his debut after injury. We can but hope!

Enjoy the game Gooners

Arsenal v Sunderland – the match preview

RefWatch Arsenal v Sunderland

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Why players from overseas get more cards than UK players

66 comments to Arsenal v Sunderland – the match preview

  • Sammy The Snake

    Gotte get this, go Gunners!

  • ak47

    this game really will be the test of character. i’ve bin impressed with gyan since the world cup and was surprised the cats got him.
    plus i remember wanting wenger to buy sessegnon, tho i have no idea what kind of player he is now. i think there team is quality and if were to beat them we will have to be on point.

    i hope diaby comes in for song with dennis and jack in front. i feel the brazilian has faster processors and ingenuity than diaby. whilst diaby has that ‘i can bitch slap who i want’ french attitude i love.

    a convincing win today and manure will be well nervous.

  • gooner80

    it is upfront that worries me Phil. I dont think rosicky should be playing either.

    B52can be sensational but he can have those kind of performances where looks mediocre, anyone wanting to be in the starting 11 for Barca should be putting in a good performance. I personally would stick jack in the centre and stick clichy and gibbs together and they can alternate in attack and defense no one has an engine like clichy

    for me rosicky is not a starter

  • slim

    HAHA ak47 about Diaby there.

  • RedGooner

    Just watching the match here and the challenge on Arshavin and NO PENALTY given. We might possibly have the best side in the league BUT we will never win anything with Ref’s like these.

    I dont buy into the idea that all frikken 16 of them are incompetent how could that be possible ……corrupt more like.

  • RedGooner

    And now the linesman did you see that offside decision on Arshavin …”BLIND fucking bastards” CHEATS

  • tim

    wow. how much are they being paid? this is disgusting.

  • Sammy The Snake

    How can we win the anything with this kind of refreeing?!?!?!?!
    At least 2 game changing decisions gone against us. Could hv been 2-0 to Arsenal.
    Still, gained a point, reduced the gap to 3. What could have been.

  • RedGooner

    Tell you what Tim “Its down right disgusting they arent held accountable for their actions” Its down right disgusting they dont have to explain these decisions after matches on TV also.

    NO Accountability whatsoever
    I hope Wenger says it as he seen it in his interview ….a ban would be laughable.

  • So, can we all just agree that Anthony Taylor is a majassive match fixing cnut?

    Oh well – at least the mancs will get the same treatment (or worse) tomorrow.

    A point at a time lads.. a point at a time – and on the bright side – that could be an important point?

  • RedGooner

    I disagree DogFace ….did you see where the linesman was when he flagged offside NO WHERE near up with the play a 4year old would have been better positioned.
    He gave offside because he was affraid of a mistake if Arshavin was off side.

  • Zack

    Well, your prediction was right.. 2-0 if we had an European ref tonight, but 0-0 cause of a new English ref.

    I’m really really sick of this ref nonsense. People always say Arsenal fans complain about refs, but how can we not do so after repeated incidents of refs robbing us of points. Heck, 2 points off today, 2 points off Newcastle, and those 4 points would have gotten us a 1 point lead over Manure. And that’s only counting the recent games.

    Looking forward to Walter’s ref review…

  • tim

    they’ll ban wenger if he even suggests that refs make mistakes.

    and fergie will win his appeal, of course.

  • tim

    with this “refeering,” it’s like we start a match already one goal down.

    i can’t even bear to think what might happen on saturday. fergie’s timely outburst is going to make sure that it’s somebody like dowd or clattenburg.

  • ak47

    dam. robbed again. my temperament suggests im gettin use to it. i thought the lads did well considering we were playing a good team managed by a dude who spent most of his time at manure and gets favours from them. add to that a manc ref, a lines(yes)man and rotational fouling and were were quite lucky not to lose.

  • Marcus

    Dogface warned us…Anthony Taylor is a Manc

    There is no point getting upset…..

    I just wish they brought back hanging for corruption

  • Zack

    What’s with the rumors going on around the internet about Anthony Taylor hailing from the Greater Manchester region?

    Can’t really trust it though, cause his Wiki page is being vandalized by angsty Gooners at the moment…

    “Anthony Taylor is an English football referee from Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester who, since 2010, is on the list of Select Group Referees who officiate in the Premier League. He is paid by Manchester United, and most recently denied Arsenal a win.”

  • tim

    From the Telegraph: “Arshavin also had another chance to apply the finishing touch, but was perhaps penalised for a determination to stay on his feet when tangling with Titus Bramble.”

    What the fuck? That’s the most euphemistic description I’ve ever seen of a clear red card and penalty. It was a rugby play.

    Thanks, English refs and media. You go on a holy crusade against foreigners for diving, but when foreigners like Arshavin — who never goes down easily and never complains — are wronged, you just shrug your shoulders and ignore it.

    Arshavin is fouled more than anybody! Hypocritical fucks.

    And fuck off, Fergie.

  • Zack

    Okay there’s solid proof about the ref coming from Manchester now..

  • Alek

    Could anybody help me?
    I find the hall fame of PGMOL.
    But I can’t find the hall of disgrace.

  • Clock Ender

    Another bent ref fast-tracked onto the Man Urinal gravy train.

    Is it worth bothering watching any more games until a whistle-blower appears? I think I’ll watch a film instead of MotD tonight, this is turning into a farce.

    It’s becoming a procession, everything already paid for and decided before a ball is kicked.

  • slim

    Hey guys no need to worry if United drop points tomorrow it’s all in our hands again- probably come down to us against them in May

  • GoonerOz

    Never thought I’d say it but bring back Graeme Poll!

  • marcus

    The fact that Taylor comes from Manchester is called the product of Arsenal supporters angst.

    The notion of paranoia describes a state where people mistake fiction for reality.

    It is us who are living in reality, the likes of Zack who inhabits a fantasy world, where a statement of fact is brushed off as someone else’s delusional psychosis.

    Sad, but a tell tale story

  • Mahdain

    really disappointed..this brings up the memories of 07/ really sucks that for us to win the the tittle not only we need to beat the 11 men playing on the pitch but also another 4 incumbent pricks aka the ref,his two assistant refs and the 4th official…well done taylor im sure youll get a big paycheck from fergie from what you just did

  • Getty

    What a relief to have Untold to vent our frustration! I wanted to kill somebody, honestly. What the heck do we have to do to get any break? Screw the refs, screw the FA, and screw the media. They can’t do any better job if they got together at the beginning of the season and decided the champion. That shit Manure team should be embarrassed if they lose this league at the end after so much coordinated help. There is nothing that will erase this season’s bad memories except beating them later in the season and take the championship home. I don’t know who I hate most.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Is Arshavin paying the price of leading Russia’s World Cup campaign?!
    Too many decisions going against him of late!

  • Shard

    Its suprising how calm I’ve managed to remain after that, even though I’m still shaking my head.. I think I’ve realised we won’t win the league this year.. The refs simply will do anything to not let it happen…

    We played quite poorly in the 1st half, but as soon as we stepped it up, the referee stepped up too. What was that foul throw called for? It couldn’t even be a doubt because it was just perfect. Then Nasri gets kicked and he gives a freekick to Sunderland hoping they score.. It’s just unbelievable..

    Its not just the ‘BIG’ decisions which there were 2 of today.. It’s the entire refereeing pattern of the game. Obviously we’ll just be called not strong enough or whatever shit.. Seriously, I think the Champions league will have to be our trophy, and that will be really tough and down to luck.

  • Shard

    And mahdain is right…its 07-08 all over again..

  • Zack

    Just because I didn’t trust Wiki on my first look cause of the excessive vandalism on the ref’s page, I live in a fantasy world? So I should take everything at face value and accept it without questioning its validity? Gotta love that logic.. That’s so unlike Untold who are bravely swimming against the stinking tide with its ref reviews, its takes on the financial side in football, corruption and the media and all..

    On a different note, it’s a point closed on Manure anyways. Looking forward to a better ref and a better first 60 minutes in Barcelona!

  • Mahdain

    @sammy have to ask that too..what do the refs have against him? if its becuase of the russian bid then its just plain pathetic…english football is rotten to the core and all thanks to man united

  • marcus

    A lot of footballers are dropping dead young now….maybe they were the whistleblowers….

  • Diaminedave

    There seems to be a pattern within the game for these crummy refs
    In general the first half seems to be fairly evenly ‘reffed'(sic) (cept for the blatant good throw to Arshavin deemed a foul) and then periods during the second half where everything seems to be given to whoever the opposition is.
    This leads to pressure on the arse end and of course a loss in confidence and the Arsenal flow.
    Should start betting on the ratio of fouls given against the Arse in the second half you’d be a rich man!!

  • Shard

    I think Wenger’s comments say a lot. He said he’s too disgusted to talk about the decisions and that these sort of decisions have too big an impact on the Premier League.. He also said that it’s not the first time.

    Even Arsene knows that the FA and the refs are hell bent on not letting us win.

  • Mahesh

    Well, a point gained in the end. Apart from everything else mentioned earlier, how can it be ‘accidental’ when a player ‘leads with his elbows’ and lands on another player’s face? Its ridiculous to what length commentators/media are willing to go to maintain the perceived sanctity of football in England – seems like Sumo wrestling of Japan! (yaocho?)

  • Shard

    This may seem like I’m joking, but I’m actually serious.. Does anyone know whether the UK justice system has the concept of a Public Interest Litigation(PIL)? Which basically means that a person may put a case before the court even if he isn’t the wronged party, and if the court deems the petition is in the larger public interest then it starts proceedings.

  • critic

    depressing depressing depressing…….both the refs and fans’ mournings.

    We were shite in the first half but soon found ourselves a man down in the second 😀 😀

  • goonergerry

    This is one game where there is no doubt what so ever that we were robbed of 2 points by the refereeing alone..
    Getting more than one major decision clearly wrong in favour of one team justifiably give rise to suspicion. It looked today that the referee/assistant were determined not to allow Arshavin to score.
    In general I believe there are differences at grass roots level between the way football is played between the north and the south of this country and northern refs interpretation of foul play is often suspect-particuarly, holding, pushing and wrestling and aggression from English style players go unpunished. Perversely they penalise every thing else in a nit picking way-Gael Clichy got 2 yellow cards recently simply for getting to the ball first.

    However, it would not surprise me in the slightest if we find out in a few years time that there was more to this than refereeing incompetence. Referees have so much autonomous decision making power-they make a prime target for corruption and malevolent influences-such as by the scumbag Ferguson.

  • Shard

    I’m actually happy Wenger said those things. For me that’s proof enough that he knows what’s going on in this regard. The fact that despite knowing this he’s willing to fight on, gives me the will to do the same.

  • Tone

    Why would any English ref or the FA want a Frenchman with a team of fancy dan foreigners to win the league?

    Much rather have a Scot who manages an “English” team with “English” players like Giggsy, Scholsy and Cuntsy.

    Ferguson is a ganster who has bullied an admitedly all too willing and complicit FA into submission.

    Witness the penalties not given against Neville at West Brom, not given at Blackpool and the joke of a pen given to Berbacunt.

    Ferguson you alcohlic psychopath I hope you liver explodes!

  • Mandy Dodd

    The referee’s a Manc-er! again…….
    What does Arshavin have to do to get a break from these scumbags?

    Still – guess we just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.
    Just hope Jack is ok – our players seem to be dropping like flies

  • Sammy The Snake

    Daylight robbery!

  • A Casual Observer

    lol @ Critic… you got to laugh – if you don’t laugh you’d cry.

    There we go – the emperor has no clothes… hate to say we told you so!

    Shall we all draw straws as to who has to sit through MOTD and report back as to how they skated round the subject of blatant match-fixing… again?

  • Ugandan Goon

    @A Casual Observer,
    Just ssa through amtch of the day and as usual the narrative seems to be the northerners pushed our nancies about and got stuck which caused us to start slow, they did conced the wrong calls against us but there was a strong hint that we weren’t championship material. i ask you can anyone really come away from that match disappointed? i thought the lads put them under sustained pressure from the first whistle and excepting that we didn’t score we played very well.
    That said lets see what united will get away with tomorrow.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Coming in round midnight I started to review the ref. I just had to do it before I went to bed. So here I sit with my ref review ready.
    It is a long review. Much to long. But I don’t make them long. It is the refs on the field that make them long.
    Watch out for some world records which will not be easily broken…

  • Malaysian Gooner

    Walter I am waiting for your reviews. I’ve been waiting since last night after the game.

    After Taylor blew the whistle, 1st thing I did was come here and check if you guys have posted anything yet (coz I reckon you might have started at 60th minute itself).

    But I’ll wait for it. This will be interesting.

  • Johnny Deigh

    @Walter, I really wished there was some way you could have gone down on the pitch, shoved Anthony Taylor away and took over the match in his place.

  • tim

    This corruption will come around to bite English football in the ass, like it has in Italy, and like it has in Japan w/ Sumo.

    The diehards will always be there, but they aren’t the ones who make English football so popular.

    I somehow still have faith that most decent people (other than those from Manchester) can see a scam for what it is.

  • Sammy The Snake

    This is not sport any more, it’s entertainment. Just like WWE. The organizers will do anything to keep the entertainment value, and create attractiveness to their offering. One such attraction is keeping one team as the dominating factor in the league, namely ManU.
    Having said that, the team must share some/most of the blame. You don’t win games by playing 20 min of football. Why couldn’t we do what we did in last 20 minutes at the start of the game? Then ref decisions wouldn’t have mattered.
    Let’s take responsibility for the team. Just blaming the ref/system won’t get us far.

  • RedGooner

    Sorry Sammy BUT if Manure can win games week in week out playing 10 mins of football we are entitled not to be cheated out of games playing 20 mins of football as you put it.

    Name me teams that are winning playing 90 mins of football each week and just what is football ? defending well for 90 mins or non stop attacking.

  • Wrenny

    We didn’t play as well as we can do, but the level of performance is irrelevant in my view. We scored a perfectly legitimate goal and earned a perfectly legitimate penalty. And therefore we should have won despite the not-so-sparkling performance. Just like Man Utd so often play badly and still win – “the stuff of champions” – so should have we. The blame is completely with the ref on this one.

    The CC final is where the team must take the blame. Dean let Birmingham foul us and, as usual, tilted the decisions away from us, but he didn’t outright rob us of any goals or give Brum any illegitimate ones. Dean didn’t cost us the match.

    But the worst thing we can do is think that we should always win despite the biased refereeing. It just can’t be done, not every game. Not when you have Van Persie, Cesc, Song, Walcott and Vermaelen missing and are playing a top-half side, that’s when the margins are too slim and the result may well come down to an offside or a penalty shout, when we have to rely on the ref to ensure the right result. And they invariably won’t.

  • Ugandan Goon

    We want Sian Massey! we want sian massey!

  • gooner80

    I cant help but think a few players had their minds on barca in that first half.

    the good news is we gained a point, arsenal was always going to drop a few points but so will man u, the other good news is RAMBO is back

  • Rhys Jaggar

    So what is the scam, then?

    1. As a ref, you get ‘promoted’ by making appropriate decisions, not the right ones?
    2. You are ‘told’ both at the start and at half time, which team your key decisions must favour?

    I dunno.

    But I know that: last weekend Arsenal were favoured by an incorrect linesman’s decision which meant Birmingham weren’t awarded a penalty. This week they were on the wrong end of just such a decision which stopped them winning the game. The decision happened after 86 mins, not 2 mins, that’s all.

    Based on the frequency of my shouting ‘BOLLOCKS’ at the referee yesterday, I don’t think he got every decision right. I’m not saying my reaction was right every time either, but I’m sure I didn’t get all of them wrong.

    there’s little doubt, right now, though, that all the following things are tight in English football:

    1. The EPL title race – could get tighter again by Monday midnight.
    2. The relegation battle – closed up hugely yesterday with wins for West Ham and WBA and losses for Blackburn, Birmingham and Stoke.
    3. 2nd promotion spot in Championship – 5 teams neck and neck.
    4. 2nd promotion spot in League 1: 4 teams pretty much neck and neck.

    Is this abnormal? I don’t know.

    Is it natural variation. I don’t know.

    But if it ever turns out that Arsenal stars and other stars of other teams were ‘injured’ for months when they weren’t to create the right ‘product’ then I think 1 million English fans should file a multi-billion pounds fraud suit against the EPL.


    If that were going on, it might be the only way to restore football to what it should be.


  • tim

    @Rhys — The scam is that after almost every week, there is a huge scandal about the quality of the referee and linesmen, yet there is no change.

    Why is the performance of the referee and how they are selected not more transparent?

    Obviously we are all biased towards our beloved Arsenal (as supporters of all teams are), but why is technology not used to help make decisions, which are vital — as you rightly point out — to the outcome of each game? Why should we settle for the line that “don’t worry, the decisions will work out in the end.” When it has been shown that so far, things have definitely not.

    Calciopoli happened.

    In Japan, the national sport that they have viewed as a religion, Sumo, is under a huge scandal. After confiscating sumo wrestlers’ cell phones, what has been shown through is that when the stakes are high — like championships, special prizes, or threats of relegation — bribery and match-fixing often happens…

    In both places, the popularity of the sport has suffered, and are probably at all time lows…Italy was lucky they won the World Cup soon after…

    Why do the authorities in the FA and PL continue to do nothing? Shouldn’t those other cases, as well as so many documented cases of referee ineptitude show that something needs to be done?

    By the way, I think the non penalty call for Bramble’s tug and push was much, much worse than the offside call.

  • Ugandan Goon

    bloody hell rhys,
    interesting take on the situation, any chance of a clarification-
    “But if it ever turns out that Arsenal stars and other stars of other teams were ‘injured’ for months when they weren’t to create the right ‘product’ then I think 1 million English fans should file a multi-billion pounds fraud suit against the EPL”
    Haven’t we been down this road with Mccarthy and Holloway?

  • tim

    oops..grammar mistakes…but anyway, point is:

    When there are so many allusions, references, and examples of referee bias and error — and how they influence important matches — why have the authorities made no structural changes?

  • Ugandan Goon

    According to some apologists that’s what makes the game interesting- we wouldn’t have anything to talk about afterwards. I am sure that’s why Mr. Phil Dowd’s Flabby Carcass can be seen desecrating football grounds up and down the country- to generate as much controversy as possible= more column inches= free advertising=trebles all-round.

  • tim

    Ugandan Goon — yeah, that’s sad but probably true

  • Sammy The Snake

    Liv 2 – 1 ManFu (HT)
    Back to square one! Arsenal must start taking advantage of all these good positions offered.
    As it stands, and all my fingers are crossed, we win our game in hand, and we’re on same points with ManLu.

  • RedGooner

    Ugandan you are correct you only have to look at the smug smiles on warren barton and company on FOX Soccer at half time delighted with what they are seeing.
    When in all fairness there should have been 2 red cards already.

    No way can every Reff every frikken week get so much wrong without someones directing them in what to do.

    Its against the laws of probability that all 16 Refs could be crap every week of the year.

    Rhy’s we dont give a dam about what happened last week in our favour or what happened against everton and newcastle and sunderland and the rest against us.
    The only thing we do know is that IF there was fair refereeing week in week out consistently we would more than likely be EPL champions and not Utd because they want the story of Fergusson beating Liverpools record as a headline.

  • gooner80


  • tim

    thank you, liverpool.

    why no red cards, phil dowd?

  • Ronnie Brown

    Such an important time now, I hope we can manage to win these leagues games, and I hope we get RVP back soon and Cesc too, extremely important for us, and of course Theo too, with are full team there’s honestly no-one who I feel we couldn’t beat, it’s much more challenging without them, so I’m just hoping we can maintain until we get those 3 back, exciting season so far though, it’s just zooming by, feels like it’s just started, been rapid, games so frequently since we been in all competitions, we’ve had a good season so far, and know we seem to know our first team since that Chelsea game, Wilshere looks absloutley phenomenal, I think bar injuries he will go down as one of Arsenal’s best ever players, against Barcelona his performance was one of the best I have ever seen in an Arsenal shirt and been a fan all my life, he wouldn’t of looked out of place in the invincibles team.