Arsenal v Sunderland: Gunners and Black Cats in search of a point for different reasons
Arsenal play their penultimate Premier League match of the season, at the Emirates Stadium to Sunderland tonight, before Sunday’s finale at home to West Brom.
A win for the Gunners will secure a third place finish in the Premier League table, and direct entry into the group stage of the Champions League.
Arsenal will face a Sunderland side tonight who are battling relegation.
The Black Cats require a point from their final two matches to stay up.
Arsenal have dropped five points in the last two matches.
A late equaliser at Old Trafford on Sunday salvaged a point in a 1-1 draw against Manchester United, following the 1-0 home defeat by Swansea City.
A second place finish now looks unlikely for the Gunners as they trail Manchester City by five points.
Manchester City are at home to Southampton on Sunday.
The Black Cats just about kept their heads above the relegation trap door with a point in a goalless draw with Leicester City on Saturday.
They finish their campaign at Champions Chelsea on Sunday.
Looking ahead to tonight’s match, Arsene Wenger said
“For me the Swansea game was an accident,” Wenger said. “Having analysed it, it’s one of the games we deserved to win the most of all the games. We lost two in two or three years now, so you can say that’s an accident.
“Sunderland need a point to be safe so I expect them to be well organised defensively, sound at the back, and to try to use all the counter-attacks they can, all the set-pieces they have, to score goals. We have to put a high rhythm into this game and play with a high level of energy to win the game.”
Sunderland are just three points above the relegation zone, but with a game in hand and Wenger believes that Black Cats manager Dick Advocaat’s experience will be beneficial.
“Sunderland, for a few years now, have struggled until five, six games before the end,” said Wenger. “First Paolo di Canio saved them, then Gus Poyet saved them, and now Advocaat saved them, so always they just find the final resources to get out of relegation.
“Advocaat has used his vast experience to give them confidence again, and to get them to play. I think as well, players certainly questioned themselves and respond always with a few games to go.”
Advocaat’s contract runs out at the end of the season and Wenger says he understands why the Sunderland manager could choose to leave, even if he keeps Sunderland in the Premier League.
“Normally you want to continue, but you have to respect his desire as well,” Wenger said. “He has given a lot and he has been in this job for a long, long time, maybe he has the right to say no when he doesn’t want to stay.”
Dick Advocaat is confident that Sunderland will be beat the drop because of “The quality of the players and the quality of the staff.
“As a coaching team, we know what we want, says Advocaat. This isn’t our first club and we know how we can get the best out of the players, and we are very straight with them because that is the best way.
“When I came, we knew we had nine games left, five away including these two. We have never run away from that.
“I think every player enjoys playing at Chelsea and Arsenal. We have nothing to lose because everyone expects us to lose – but we don’t. I know that we will give both of them a really difficult time and try to get what we need. ”