When a team you are about to face loses to Southampton 8-0 the week before, you would think that a gleeful rub of the hands would be the appropriate thing to do. Our squad, even with the injuries we have, should be dispatching this Sunderland side without much in the way of fuss. But we all know football isn't always that black and white, especially when your team is suffering a loss of confidence, at least that is what it looks like to me.
Our never say die attitude saved our bacon against Anderlecht in midweek but our performances are very much an issue of late. At least our last two matches. What we are seeing on the pitch just does not match the talent we have in our team. It seems crazy to think that a team fielding Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey and Alexis is currently lacking creativity, but that has been the case against those who sit back and allow us space in front of them but hardly any in behind. It partly explains why Alexis Sanchez has been the only one who has been able to carve out assists in the last two matches. He is capable of weaving through players in tight spaces something that not many of our squad can do.
It was almost the wrong time for Sunderland to be hit for 8 because they will do everything to put that right. They will have noted the success that Hull City had and you can bet your bottom dollar that we will see yet another defensive opposition display. It will be down to us to break them down, as is the case more often than not in this league. That is easier said than done when the confidence is not at it's highest.
Jack Wilshere is suspended while Laurent Koscielny is still out with his achilles injury. Arsene said he wasn't sure if he should include Theo Walcott into the squad, stating that he needs to get used to getting kicked again. He was leaning towards the cautious side but didn't quite rule it out so I wouldn't be too surprised to see him take his place on the bench, even if he didn't get on the pitch.
I guess Arsene has another choice to make in the centre of defence and at right back. The back four did not look very convincing in Belgium on Wednesday and I'd much rather a young balanced defence over a more experienced defence but with a player out of position. I suspect Arsene will continue to rely on the experience of Monreal given the pressure placed on the squad at present.
I'd love to see Tomas Rosicky get a chance in the side. The speed of his passing and his knack of making angles to receive the pass from others could really benefit this Arsenal side but unfortunately I don't see that happening. Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to replace Wilshere in the team, if not quite the same position. Ox should play from the flank while Santi Cazorla could join Aaron Ramsey in the middle of midfield.
With a few extra days training, I hope Mikel Arteta is given a start ahead of Mathieu Flamini. His passing between the lines could help us shift the ball around quicker than recent weeks. Giving the ball to Santi and Ramsey at the right times could prove very important as we search to break them down.
Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up:
Former Gunner, Vito Mannone was awful in the crushing defeat last week and it's still undecided whether or not he will start the game. You just know though that against us he could have one of those days where he pulls out a blinder against us. Maybe that's my nerves speaking but it certainly would not surprise me.`
It doesn't really need saying but by gee we really need to start winning now. A comfortable away victory with a sharp and determined performance would go down a treat but I don't see that being how the game unfolds unfortunately.
Put it this way, if we play as we did in midweek then we could lose this game, no question. Non Arsenal fans would absolutely love it as well. The team that has just been hammered 8-0 goes on to beat Arsenal. We cannot have it today, we just can't.
Winning the game is vital and I hope the players can get back on track today. There is a lot of quality in this Arsenal team, it's easy to forget about it and get wrapped up in the short term disappointments but we have a lot of attacking talent. We just need to get it together and show it. Make that be the case today.
Check back for the confirmed line ups and after the game we'll have another Q&A.
Three points please, otherwise you'll get the silent treatment from me, and you won't want that. Or something.