Well, that was the response we were after following the Hull game, but we got a similar response after the Fulham match, the key is sustaining it. We’re approaching a bit of a tough period now, with our next four opponents at home in the league being Everton, Spurs, Villa and Manchester United. The Champions League result was a good one, now we need to see a backlash in the league. We played well against Porto but our defensive frailties were again apparent as we should have been 2-0 down before we started scoring. However, it was good to see the attack click into gear a bit and van Persie and Adebayor get the goals. I don’t think those two will ever be a classic strike partnership but as long as they play well and score goals, they’re playing styles not complimenting each other won’t matter.
However, playing an open European side at home is a bit different to travelling to the North East to take on Sunderland. Having already lost to Fulham away we can’t take any game lightly, and every match must be treated as a challenge. A win is important for confidence going into a two week international break. Also, the rest of the top four all have difficult games this weekend, so this could be a chance to make up some lost ground on the top two. Chelsea play Villa at home and Liverpool have Man City away. Sunderland have lost one and won one at home in the league so far this season and find themselves thirteenth with seven points. They haven’t taken a point off of a ‘big four’ side for two and a half years, losing their last ten matches against them.
We’ve beaten Sunderland in the league the last seven times we’ve played them, and have a 100% record against Keane in his managerial career so far. The corresponding fixture last season came on the last day, with a 1-0 win courtesy of a sweet finish from Theo in the first half. In fourteen fixtures in all competitions between the two sides since Wenger has been manager, we’ve won nine, drawn three and lost two.
Song might be back in the squad following his hip injury. Diaby could be back for the Everton game after the international break. I expect we’ll probably see the same side that thrashed Porto midweek, although Arsene might be tempted to bring in someone like Bendtner.
Nosworthy, Tainio and Kenwyne Jones are all out injured, Bardsley and Leadbitter could be back in the squad following injuries.