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Arsenal vs. Sunderland: Match Preview

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The right track is just over there. Let's go find it.

It's also Bergkamp Statue Unveiling Day!
It's also Bergkamp Statue Unveiling Day!
Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Arsenal v. Sunderland
English Premier League
Saturday, 22 Feb 2014
Emirates Stadium, London
League Form: ARS WWDWLD | SUND LWDWWL
Television: USA Network, 7AM PT/10AM ET/3PM BT

Here we are again, back to the business of league play after Wednesday's wacky fun time romp with Bayern.  Sunderland are a team on the verge of comfort - they're in 18th place, but only four points separate them from 10th place, so they'll be looking to come to the Emirates and get a result of some sort.

Despite what their league position shows, Sunderland are playing well of late, and Gus Poyet seems to have them moving in a positive direction - they don't just squat behind the ball and defend, they attempt to play a bit, which is good news for Arsenal's attack.  Poyet's recently been on a bit of a crusade to push his strikers to do more - his latest target was Jozy Altidore, who has struggled since joining Sunderland this summer but who has the quality to do good things.  Sunderland have a solid defense, and if they can get their offense in gear, they should be safe from relegation - but let's put that offense-in-gear-getting off another week, shall we?

Arsenal, despite all portents of doom and gloom after the last couple weeks, are still not in the famous "downward spiral" that a certain unemployed manager claimed was happening this time last season.  They'll be looking to arrest a small skid, though, and right the ship after the last couple of results.  To that end, I would expect to see Olivier Giroud back in the starting lineup, although Sanogo acquitted himself well enough on Wednesday that it wouldn't surprise me to see him get a sub appearance at some point tomorrow.

Kieran Gibbs is obviously out, but beyond that and the return of Szcz, after his enforced second half break, I wouldn't expect too many changes, despite how much Arsenal ran on Wednesday - they need to solidify their league position, and Wenger will be looking to make sure Arsenal get maximum points from what should be a very winnable fixture.

EDIT:  Shows what I know. The Guardian is reporting Friday afternoon that Özil will get the day off.