Premier League preview: Sunderland v Arsenal

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Premier League preview: Sunderland v Arsenal
How happy is Arsène Wenger that Lee Cattermole is suspended for this one?
The Arsenal manager hates tackles almost as much as the Sunderland midfielder loves them, but after Cattermole received his second red card in just three games at the weekend, his two game ban rules him out of creating the same kind of headlines that Joe Cole, Ian Evatt and Gary Cahill have produced this season.
Those are the three players that have been sent off against Arsenal in the Gunners’ four Premier League games, leading Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce – who has a track record of getting involved in matters that have nothing to do with him – to claim that Wenger now “has most of the media in his pocket, and is almost affecting the officials so that you can't tackle an Arsenal player.”
There may be a grain of truth in that – Wenger’s belief that no-one be allowed to touch his players has seemingly intensified in recent years – but in creating these kinds of media storms the manager is making a rod for his own back. Constantly winding up your opposition is only going to make them react in one way, by getting in your faces, and so the cycle begins again.
Anyway, enough with the playground name calling, and on to the football.
“For me, this is a great start to my debut season – four league games and three victories, with a group that it’s a pleasure to be part of,” says a happy Marouane Chamakh. “Everything’s going very well so far.
“[Last Saturday's opponents] Bolton resembled Blackburn in many ways, I thought. Physically and athletically they were very strong, and they pressured us very well at times.
“You might call it a typical English game, of the kind I expected when I arrived. They often played it long and then battled for the second ball. That happened when they scored their goal with a header, which we were disappointed with - but never mind, we came back with three of our own.”
That they did, and that 4-1 win over Bolton was followed by the midweek Champions League hammering of Braga – Chamakh scored in both – Arsenal will be supremely confident heading to the north east, where it will be up to Sunderland to – guess what? – get in their faces. Just like they did when their last high profile visitors came to Wearside, and indeed when Arsenal did last year.
“I know we won this game at home last year and if we play like we did against Manchester City - who are a big team as well - we can get a result again,” says Belgian goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, like Chamakh, another new arrival to the Premier League this summer, and one who continues to stand in for the injured Craig Gordon.
“When playing at home the atmosphere is excellent and having 40,000 people behind us always helps the team to do a little bit more.
“It is especially important that when we play someone big like Arsenal that we have that support from the crowd.”
They are sure to get that, and with boss Steve Bruce likely to utilise Darren Bent in a wide position to accommodate record signing Asamoah Gyan, there will be no little firepower available to the home side – a useful tool seeing as outscoring Arsenal could be tricky at the moment, although Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby will be missing here.
The Gunners have been firing recently, and while they won’t find it easy at the Stadium of Light, they should just have enough to see off the threat of the home side and for Wenger to go home happy.
That’s unless his side are tackled of course.
Prediction: Sunderland 1 Arsenal 2



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