Written by Damian Kayat for Hollywoodbets.
Sunderland v Arsenal | Sunday 24 April | Stadium of Light | 15:05
Sunderland’s decision to hire Sam Allardyce is starting to reap benefits at the business end of the season. Perhaps Aston Villa could have shown the same common sense when hiring Tim Sherwood’s successor. Arsenal’s proud record of sustained Champions League football is under real threat with both Manchester United and Liverpool picking up vital momentum in recent weeks. They will clearly dominate the game and will need to make that possession translate into a result. Sunderland will not be intimidated by an Arsenal side perpetually failing to deliver on the promise that their style intimates.
To Win (90 Mins)
Sunderland 7/2 | Draw 11/4 | Arsenal 15/20
Sam Allardyce’s reputation as a man for a crisis was giving some resonance with that ultimately comfortable win at Norwich City. Defoe and Borini worked brilliantly together while Kirchoff’s sweeping role gave adequate protection for Kaboul and co. Sunderland will need more from Kasri and Amamvi this week if they wish to overhaul Arsenal and their technical pyrotechnics. Cattermole will also need to keep some of his baser tendencies in check as Arsenal will be able to expose his lack of pace perhaps better than any other club.
Defoe and Borini have the potential to be a really formidable partnership. Defoe’s instinctive goal-scoring talents marry well with Borini’s industrious desire to run channels and create space. Big Sam will no doubt use the Norwich game as a template; he will ensure defensive solidity and will get as many men behind the ball as possible. He will hope that Arsenal grow frustrated and push too many men forward, opening the space for Borini and Defoe to exploit. If Kaboul, Van Aanholt and co can keep their discipline, Sunderland have a very good chance of picking up a point and potentially all three.
Despite winning two consecutive F.A Cups, Arsenal fans are beginning to turn on what they perceive to be a model satisfied with mediocrity. If there ever was a season that they should win the league, this was it. Defensive naivety and over-elaborate possession (where have we heard this before?) have left Wenger with yet more introspection. Iwobi and Wellbeck have looked the business recently while Mohammed Elneny has solidified his place in the side. But Sanchez has disappointed in recent weeks while Gabriel continues to be a defensive liability.
Gabriel will need to keep his wits about him as Defoe stalks in characteristically predatory fashion. Borini’s pace will keep Monreal honest while the likes of Kaboul and Brown will always provide a threat from set plays. Arsenal will need to navigate the increasingly formidable defensive hurdle that is the Kirchoff-Cattermole duo. Cattermole’s often petulant tenacity is perfectly underscored by Kirchoff’s ‘Iceman’ persona; the German reassuringly protects the back and will provide nuisance value for Ozil. Arsenal will boss possession but may find it frustrating if they fail to score early. The game on Thursday could also assist Sunderland in making them more vulnerable to the counterattack in the closing parts of the game.
Verdict: Double Chance - Sunderland to win or draw at 1/1
Sunderland are riding a crest of confidence that is in complete contrast to the doubt that surrounds the Wenger dynastic model. Arsenal also played a mid-week game which may leave them more vulnerable to Defoe and Borini on the counter. However, Arsenal may very well pick up a point through sheer force of possession. There is good value in Allardyce’s men as they fight for survival.
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