Sunderland will be looking to continue their excellent form under Martin O’Neill on Saturday when they face Arsenal at the Stadium of Light in one of the most eye-catching fixtures of the weekend as the Black Cats look an attractive bet at 3/1 in the betting.
It has been well documented that since O’Neill’s arrival, the Black Cat’s form has been nothing short of incredible. They have won nine of the 13 matches he has taken charge of across all competitions, climbing to 8th in the table and reaching the FA Cup Fifth round in the process.
He has got Sunderland’s players performing to the best of their ability too. Striker Stephane Sessegnon for example showed signs of his potential under Steve Bruce, but under O’Neill he has come alive. The same applies to Irish winger James McClean who hardly featured under Bruce.
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Overall, when O’Neill took the job at the Stadium of Light, it was widely accepted that he would do well. Nobody expected the turnaround to be quite so quick or quite so substantial though.
They will be relishing the visit of Arsenal too. At home under O’Neill, Sunderland have won four out of five Premier League games. One of which was over league leaders Manchester City, so they would love to replicate that performance against the Gunners.
As for Arsene Wenger’s men, well they had an excellent afternoon last weekend, hammering Blackburn Rovers 7-1 at the Emirates. It was an afternoon when everything came together for them and their opponents had no answer.
In many ways, it was the Arsenal of old. During the unbeaten season of 2003/2004 performances like last weekend were the norm. This season though, frustrating performances have been far too regular and this is why they are 6th in the table.
They are only three points behind a Champions League spot though, so if they are able to take the Blackburn win and use it to boost the rest of their campaign, it could still be an excellent season. Away from the league, they are still in the FA Cup and Champions League too of course.
As for this weekend’s trip to the Stadium of Light, it is clearly a tough test but Arsenal will consider themselves fresher than their hosts. Sunderland played 120 minutes in the FA Cup during the week and the Gunners will hope to take advantage of this.
Team news wise, Sunderland will be without Lee Cattermole, David Vaughan and Nicklas Bendtner, while leading scorer Sessegnon faces a late fitness test. For Arsenal, Kieran Gibbs could return to the squad in a welcome injury boost.