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.