By Nick Teale
After making a strong start to their season, Sunderland's form has turned in the last three months and they now find themselves just three points clear of the relegation zone.
Having registered a point at Old Trafford and a home win over Liverpool in October, the Black Cats haven't won a League game since November 21 when they beat Arsenal 1-0.
But, as Ian Laws of the Sunderland Echo explains, a win at Emirates Stadium would signal the end of a dire run of results.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
"It has been a terrible, terrible run. The slide the club has had in the last three months has really dampened spirits in Sunderland. It must be said that the manager has been stripped of many of his first-team players because of injuries. At one stage they had 10 players out injured; with a relatively small squad that is hard to absorb. It has taken its toll and even the players coming back now are feeling that confidence and belief has been hit. Spirits are low and if there is any place to see the club get a bit of a lift it would be Emirates Stadium.
"They picked up two suspensions in their last game at Portsmouth. Lee Cattermole has been a key player when he has been fit and David Meyler, who has been a bit-part player. They are both suspended and Jordan Henderson, a 19-year-old local lad who has been a real dynamo since coming onto the scene, has an ankle injury."
THE STORY SO FAR
"It's Groundhog Season for Sunderland. They have been worrying about relegation for the last few seasons. The fans up here have got used to a 'yo-yo existence', moving between the Premier League and the Championship. They hoped so much that the money the new owner Ellis Short was bringing to the table and the change in manager would make a difference. But it has been the same old story. But it has been exceptional this season with the injuries they have had and if Steve Bruce can keep his best players fit then I'm sure that they can put together the sort of results that will keep them in the League. But they'll be fresh for this [Sunderland haven't played since February 9]. They needed a rest I think."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"It seemed apparent that Kenwyne Jones had been distracted by talk of Liverpool being interested in him, who wouldn't be when a top four club is reportedly interested in you? It has to be said that he has been outstanding since the transfer window closed. He has been on top form and so hopefully in both boxes in terms of being a defensive help with his height at set-pieces. He will be a massive figure for Sunderland for the remainder of the campaign."
THE ONE TO WATCH
"Darren Bent is the key player for Sunderland. He has got 15 Premier League goals this season and only one Englishman has done better than that - Wayne Rooney. In a World Cup season he wants to do well and that should hopefully be good for Sunderland. If they can keep getting the ball into the box and Darren Bent is there, then they have a good chance of getting something from any game. He has scored against all of the 'Big Four' this season."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"They would be a lot happier with a point at Emirates Stadium than with the last point they got at Portsmouth. They were deep into added time when they conceded a leveller there. A point against would feel like a victory in a lot of ways because they have been on such a poor run of form that if they get something at Arsenal then it can turn a few heads and lift spirits with games against Aston Villa, Liverpool and Manchester City to come after Arsenal."