By Nick Teale
Since taking charge in the summer Steve Bruce appears to have turned things around at Sunderland.
After struggling in recent seasons they're currently eighth in the Premier League.
They've drawn at Old Trafford and beaten Liverpool but will they be able to take anything from in-form Arsenal? We asked Ian Laws of the Sunderland Echo exactly that.
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"Arsenal look pretty much irresistible at the moment. I know they have a few key injuries at the moment and that's going to affect the game but I wouldn't have thought it would affect Arsenal's approach; they're a team who go for three points whatever the circumstances. If they get a stroke of luck, Sunderland can beat Arsenal. Sunderland will make it very difficult for them so it will be an interesting afternoon."
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
"It has been a struggle in the previous two seasons just to stay in the Premier League despite all the money that was spent by a quite ambitious board. Steve Bruce has brought in more physical and robust players and has strengthened the spine of the team and that's worked out very well. He's also toughened the team up. The work rate is higher, the team is looking fitter generally and they're more of a robust unit; a stronger Premier League squad. Most fans feel quite confident that the Club can maintain a top-10 position."
THE MAN IN CHARGE
"He's changed things around in a lot of ways. He's trimmed down the squad; Roy Keane had quite a big squad and Bruce's view was that while that's great when you have a time of injuries or suspensions, it's not great for the majority of the season when you've got a lot of players who are unable to get a game. He didn't think that was good for harmony in the team and he wanted a squad where everybody feels involved and close enough to the first team to be motivated to work and keep the right attitude towards things."
THE STORY SO FAR
"Recent results haven't told the full story. They really did dominate at Tottenham and it was astonishing for anybody who saw the full 90 minutes to think that Sunderland came out of that game on the end of a 2-0 scoreline. They had a lot more chances, passed the ball a lot better and but for a couple of key moments they could have got something from the game. They lost to Aston Villa only on penalties in the Carling Cup and they coped well with 10 men for most of the game against West Ham. They should have beaten Manchester United [in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford] and they did beat Liverpool [1-0] but it has to be said they were given the run around by Chelsea [in a 3-1 defeat]."
"The Sunderland crowd, at home, expects its team to try and go out and win every game. I think it will be a quite similar formation to the one Bruce put out at Spurs because he still has Kenwyne Jones suspended. I think Darren Bent will operate on his own up-front with Steed Malbranque, Fraizer Campbell and Kieran Richardson supporting him from midfield. Bruce will be aware that Arsenal are strong in the midfield and I think Sunderland will try and deny them space."
"Everything Darren Bent hit seemed to go in when he first came. He's been in the positions to get chances and I'm sure he'll continue to do that. He'll score goals for Sunderland; his tally says that. I don't know if Arsenal fans are bringing a beach ball with them but he'll even pick that out if it happens to come onto the pitch as well!"