Three reasons Arsenal’s trip to Sunderland might show how their season will pan out


Arsenal travel to the Stadium of Light to face Sunderland this weekend in a match that could demonstrate how likely they are to chase down a Champions League spot for next season.

These will be the telling factors to look out for tomorrow...

Jack Wilshere

The midfielder played a starring role as England defeated Brazil at Wembley in midweek, and has affirmed his status as one the most exciting prospects in the Premier League. However, as Arsene Wenger warned, Wilshere has only recently returned from injury, and could burn out by the end of this season. If Wenger decides not to start Wilshere, or the midfielder looks jaded after his midfield exertions, it could be an indication that he might not be as influential as Arsenal hope in the next few months. If he maintains his form from Wednesday and leads his side claim to three points at the Stadium of Light, Wilshere will have demonstrated he can be the impetus that takes Arsenal into the Champions League.

The defence

Kieran Gibbs and Thomas Vermaelen are injured, whilst Laurent Koscielny might not make the game either. The addition of Nacho Monreal means Andre Santos should be kept away from the side, but if Koscielny is out then Sebastien Squillaci might end up starting the match. If the French defender does play, and Arsenal defend well, it will demonstrate their strength in depth at the back. If Squillaci produces a similar performance to the one he produced at Olympiakos, then Arsenal will have shown a worrying reliance on their first choice centre backs. Monreal will also be facing a far more testing fixture than his debut at home to Stoke, and if he impresses against Sunderland’s tricky wingers, he can establish himself as an important piece of Arsenal’s first eleven.

History repeats itself?

Last season Arsenal beat Sunderland 2-1 in early February on the same day Spurs beat Newcastle. From then on the Gunners ruthlessly hunted down their North London rivals to claim third spot in the league and a Champions League place. This season the gap is smaller, but Spurs might feel more confident about avoiding such a catastrophic collapse as they did last season. Either way a win at Sunderland would bring back happy memories for Arsenal, and could help trigger a fine end of season run.

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