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FA Cup 5th Round: Arsenal v Sunderland; Match Preview

I really wish I could call this Vu Ja De – the feeling that none of this has happened before but its has. In fact only last weekend when Arsenal made the trip north to Wearside to take on Sunderland for the league. Well, here it is a week later and highs of that dramatic win have been replaced by the epic lows of the disgraceful performance that was witnessed at the San Siro. Which Arsenal team shows up for the FA Cup 5th round is anyone’s guess.

This much is certain, a response is needed. What kind of response? Well, the preferred would be an absolute battering of Martin O’Neil’s side. The not so preferred, getting jettisoned from the FA Cup.

There is a sense of impending doom that I have. Last season on the tails of an epic collapse at the Carling Cup final, this team began the gradual decline into the abyss that was fourth place in the league.  Fourth place in the league is going to be welcome, however, should Arsenal begin a slide reminiscent of last season, well then even fourth place might not be there for the taking.

As I wrote yesterday, there is lots of blame to go around. Right now, however, we have to move beyond that. I support Arsenal FC. And when the players take the pitch, I will always root for the team to win and I am hopeful that tomorrow they will go out with purpose. I know some of feel that you can longer watch. Whether that means you can no longer support right now, I don’t know. But if the current state of affairs makes you question your support, I suggest you go by a light blue Etihad shirt and go run with the money team.

Arsenal are better than Sunderland. I would go so far as to say they are better than AC Milan. I have no idea what happened to that team on Wednesday. But something got in their head and when they took the pitch they were absolute shit. Much like they did last weekend, they need to come to Sunderland and control the game from the get go. There should be no leaving it until the 1st minute of stoppage time this week. This match, this team and more importantly the fan base demand putting Sunderland to the sword early.

Wenger, it seems is set to start a strong side. Word is that since the debacle in Italy he has demanded a performance from the team and will not give the first teamers a rest. I have Van Persie in my starting line-up projection but I wouldn’t be surprised if he did give the dutchman a rest. Laureny Koscielny will miss this match recovering from what I think is noting more than a deep bruise. All indications are that he will be back in time for the North London Derby.  Per Mertesacker is out for the season. The BFG you will remember suffered ankle damage going for a routine ball late in the league match against Sunderland last week. Johann Djourou is set to feature alongside Thomas Vermaelen in the middle with Kieran Gibbs getting his second match in at fullback. Other than that the rest of the team is healthy and should feature. And that means we may also expect that Gervinho will be back in the squad.

The problem at Sunderland will the same problem we had last week and at the San Siro, another God awful pitch. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I don’t think Sunderland are going to sit back looking for a point. The last thing they will want is a trip back down to London to wrap this up so I think they will actually try and play and open match. Which should be good news for Arsenal, so they can play.

How the Match Should Play:

I don’t have a sense of how this is going to go but as I just said, I don’t expect Sunderland to play with 10 men behind the ball. Look for it to be open but a slow plodding affair because of the nasty state of the pitch.

Players to Watch:

Arsenal. Gervinho. The Ivory Coast international makes his return to the squad after the Africa Cup of Nations.

Sunderland. Sebastien Larsson.  Why because like I said last week, he is the one who got away.

Projected Line Ups:


Arsenal:  Diaby (muscle) Frimpong (knee) Koscielny (knee) Mertesacker (ankle) Santos (ankle) Wilshere (ankle).

Sunderland: Angeleri (knee) Brown (knee) Gordon (knee) Vaughan (knee) Bramble (Achilles) Cattermole (hamstring) Kilgallon (ankle) Bendtner (ineligible)

Last Meeting (EPL):

Arsenal: 2

Sunderland: 1

Match Referee: Howard Webb (Matches 31, R5 Y107)

Broadcast Information:

US: Fox Soccer Channel – 12:00 EST
UK: ITV 1 – 1715 GMT

Match Facts (via BBC): 

 • Having eliminated Leeds and Aston Villa, Arsenal now try to qualify for the quarter-finals for the eighth time in 12 seasons. They were ousted by a top-flight club most recently in the last eight last term when Manchester United eclipsed them.

• The Gunners are the second most successful club in FA Cup history, having won the competition 10 times (one fewer than Manchester United), and been runners-up on seven occasions.

• The North London club have lost away from home to fellow Premier League clubs in each of the last six seasons, since lifting the silverware most recently in 2005.

• Arsenal won 2-1 when they visited the Stadium of Light last Saturday, to take their unbeaten sequence in the Premier League against Sunderland to five (W3, D2), but are all-square in the FA Cup at three wins a piece.

• Since prevailing 2-1 in the semi-finals on their way to the silverware in 1973, Sunderland have been knocked out twice by the Gunners, in the 1991 and 1997 third rounds.

YAMA Prediction:

Arsenal: 1

Sunderland: 1

Game Day Chat is Open!!




  1. HighburyTerraceSteve

    February 19, 2012 at 15:04

    Good to see some of the old-timers emerging from the wood-work, and thank god, Stag, as he promised (once again) didn’t really “go away”….Next time, for sure….

    Yesterday’s result was all too predictable. Once the enthusiasm of youth (Le Coq playing out of position because of the unexplained absence of Gibbs….hmmm….) and the best efforts of our forwards (Gervinho’s shot–to the fat part of the target, where the keeper tends to live….and RVP’s attempt to win a penalty) came to nought, the Sunderland goals (or worse a nil-nil and a replay) seemed inevitable. A couple more injuries and (unlike a week ago) uninspired substitutions and the jig was up. 2-nil probably was about the right score, with the Ox being more unfortunate than Squillaci to score for them. Still, Sunderland looked a lot more likely to get a third than to lose the clean sheet….

    At least now our schedule is clear (except for the run out at home vs Milan….) and we can focus on the “existential” trophy (a CL spot). After our efforts in midweek, however, one might question whether or not it’s one we really want to hoist….

    The squad is decimated, the club is a shambles and, as in the previous thread, it’s all about the blame. And blame (and corrective measures) would be fine if there seemed a plausible path forward….

    We may have to go lower yet, and, as Fred points out, Spurs and Liverpool (and beyond that, Milan on mop-up duty, then Newcastle, Everton away and Villa, etc., etc.) should be licking their lips. Longer term, I still think it’s possible that Kronke and the board are savoring each bad result (in truly sinister fashion) hoping that enough outcry is created for Usamnov/Dein to sweep in and save the day with an attendant windfall for the Walmart Wife (with maybe a kickback to the Hill-Woods and other assorted minions). How ironic if Wenger (who looks nearly dead) were to survive longer than the owner….

    But maybe that’s being too optimistic….

    It could get really ugly….. (And the next one against the old enemy and their half-time coach!!!) We now have 6 defenders injured (three good ones: Santos, Mert and Kos, and three iffier: Gibbs, Coquelin and Squillaci). In MF Ramsey joins Wilshere and Diaby out injured, but maybe he’ll be back soon to do that right foot, right foot, right foot, (“oops”) sliding tackle thing alongside his mentor, Rosicky…..

    The team that remains will be kids and the perma-flogged (RVP, Song), or the flogged-too-soon after injury (Arteta, Sagna) or the-trying-to-play-too-many positions (TV5, Song again….) or the confidence-in-the-toilet boys (Gervinho, Walcott, Chamakh). Maybe it’s time to break out the cadre of national-captains-with-splinters-in-their-arses (Arshavin, Benayoun, Park)….. It all points to a poorly built, poorly managed group. I’m sure they would ALL run away, if they could….

    But they can’t–at least until the summer….(and neither can we as supporters, despite our best efforts….) so we’ll have to hope that a few kids come good, a few decent players come back from injury and a few others dig deep and find some spirit. Combine that with a little luck (well, maybe a LOT of luck) and…..

    OK, enough said, gotta dig a hole in the sand big enough for my head….

  2. Fred

    February 19, 2012 at 11:03

    Our next games are Spurs and Liverpool.

    Both teams with greater ambitions (and lower wage bills) will be utterly dissappointed with themselves if they don’t beat us.

    And guys, don’t be surprised if RvP gets an “injury” in early April. He would not want to get hurt before his last major contract signing of his career – which ofcourse will not be with Wonga FC.

    Also, if I were Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain, I would have my agents ACTIVELY working right now.

  3. Mazza

    February 18, 2012 at 20:25

    We just cannot keep up financially with the likes of Sunderland. Wenger is working wonders just to keep us competitive with these teams. Milan’s wage bill is much lower than ours. Again, we can only marvel at our manager’s ability to match them punch for punch as well.

    Dear Arsene, oh Arsene. I love you Arsene…..

    • stag133

      February 18, 2012 at 20:57

      @Mazza, After were unlucky to lose to us last weekend. Throw in a beat down in Milan mid-week, and more injuries, and we aren’t as good as they are on the day. No chance.

  4. ChicagoGooner

    February 18, 2012 at 20:04

    Is there anything to say about this loss that hasn’t been said a thousand times already?

  5. Raj

    February 18, 2012 at 19:36

    Ah, the now traditional go-out-of-every-competition-in-the-space-of-a-week ceremony is upon us a month early this year! Happy days! Now let’s party!

    On a serious note though, 2 things on The Ox:

    1) Credit for actually busting a gut to try and get back for that goal. Alex Song is the DM and yet he was casually jogging, while Chambo sprinted past him and past everyone else to try and prevent a goal.
    2) When he was on the floor distraught at the final whistle, why did our captain just walk past him, then leaving a Sunderland player to go and console him? Couldn’t any of our team do the ‘Eboue role’ and go to pick him up?

    • CaribKid

      February 18, 2012 at 20:37

      @Raj, @Raj, Had those very same thoughts about the OX after both the OG and end of game. No one tried to console an 18 old who had just busted his gut for the club over 90 minutes.

      Where are the f******g leaders on this club?

      We always see pics of Arsene scowling, demonstrating to the 4th Ref or tucked under his parka with head down. Few few time we see him trying to urge on the team.

    • stag133

      February 18, 2012 at 20:55

      @Raj, That’s because even though RVP is the best player we have by far… and a “star” player… he is NOT a good leader. Wenger simply tries time and time again, to give the best player the captain’s arm band, in an effort to get him to stay, against good judgement.
      Then… we sell the captain / player off to the highest bidder, collect the big money profit, and don’t replace the player with any type of guy on the same level of skill.
      repeat. rewash. re-rinse. rehash.

      so, the OX’s effort goes unnoticed by his teammates. Those Song LOVERS out there, who think this guy is someone special, don’t even recognize what you just said during a match. His effort often SUCKS. He watched and jogged, and Ox’s effort results in an own goal, because he actually ran his ass off to get there.

      • Raj

        February 18, 2012 at 21:22

        @stag133, When Cesc first left, I thought the right man for the job would be Thomas Vermaelen. Just as when Henry left, I felt it should have been either Toure or Gilberto and when Vieira left, it should’ve been one of those two, or Campbell. For me, a captain should always be a CB or CM.

        • stag133

          February 19, 2012 at 04:29

          @Raj, Vermaelen is injured too often to be a full-time captain, but I understand what you mean.

  6. Fred

    February 18, 2012 at 19:25

    “But if the current state of affairs makes you question your support, I suggest you go by a light blue Etihad shirt and go run with the money team.”

    The players responded very happily to your support!

    • Fred

      February 18, 2012 at 19:28


      And if you wait till summer, RvP will also pay all the Wenger lovers for
      their holier than thou support as well!

      There have been mountains of evidence proving all the Wenger lovers wrong
      over 7-8 years. YET it is those who criticize the FAILED setup that are
      told to shut up.

      Wenger thanks you all.

      • stag133

        February 18, 2012 at 21:00

        @Fred, No doubt about it Fred. I have said over the last few weeks. RVP will NOT sign a contract at the Arsenal, and we WILL ca$h him in as well in the Summer… next Summer’s saga will be the RVP saga, with Barcelona and Real Madrid “destabilizing” our player, and we’ll sell him to the highest bidder…. which might actually end up being Man City. How would the fans feel about ANOTHER player being sold to an EPL rival? (if we can even consider ourselves a rival).
        Its going to happen. We will sell RVP, and NOT replace him either.

        There is only one chance to turn this club around. Sack WENGER. Sack the BOARD.

  7. George

    February 18, 2012 at 19:12

    No response at all, a week just got even worse

    Do we have anything left to play for this season?

  8. stag133

    February 18, 2012 at 15:14

    DAG, not sure how or why you go on with this non-sense about … go get a light blue kit… its CRAP.
    Why, because there are people who feel the club is being is taking advantage of its great support by FLEECING US? Making massive profits on our backs, while neglecting the team on the pitch?

    It does NOT make you a supporter, and others not. It doesn’t make you better, and others should go get a blue kit. Sorry, thats a load of shite. Maybe your view is short term, game to game… but mine isn’t. I will still be SUPPORTING the Arsenal FC, once this group have made as much money out of the club as they can, and move on… and after the guy that allows them to do so, Arsene Wenger, moves on…
    Right now, its not about wins and losses on the pitch. For many people, the club have taken the joy out of watching the matches. This is the case in London, as well as abroad.

    So you can live and die with the team, but frankly, I won’t do it until something changes at the club… as in, what their actual goals and motives are.

    so, please, stop insulting those of us with that tired old line… about a different kit.

    Sunny day, long work week… I’m going to opt not to waste my time once again, after taking some time out of a work day to watch that CL debacle.

    If I had to predict… common sense tells me, we didn’t outplay Sunderland last week, we just got humiliated in midweek, and we have more injuries in defense.
    I’d say LOSS.
    Sunderland 2 Arsenal 1.
    That’s what my brain tells me.

    Would you bet on Arsenal to win today? I know I wouldn’t. We suck as a road team.

  9. joshuad

    February 18, 2012 at 15:11

    holy crap. myiachi just scored for bolton in the third minute of the game. kid is quick. watching to see how he does for bolton. also watching vela as santander get some tv time against barcelona.

  10. michael

    February 18, 2012 at 12:35

    Arsenal should and bring out their killer team should be under-estimated,they should approach each game as it comes. This yr’s F.A cup must not slip away! UP GUNNERS*

  11. @gervinho27_fans

    February 18, 2012 at 06:46

    I read the whole of ur long, 2 page preview and definately enjoyed doing so. The only worry to me is that arsenal are not in the right mental condition aproaching the match. They just need to be positive and put full focus on winning the FA cup. The other thing is the referee, Howard Webb. Hope he has a great game.

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