By Giuseppe Muro
Arsenal suffered an unhappy visit to the Stadium of Light last season, losing 1-0 thanks to Darren Bent's 74th-minute strike.
Steve Bruce and his side have turned the Stadium of Light into something of a fortress and recorded an impressive 1-0 victory over Manchester City in their last home game.
Can Arsène Wenger's side avenge last year's defeat and take all three points on Saturday? We spoke to Ian Laws of the Sunderland Echo to get a Sunderland perspective on this weekend's clash.
THE STORY SO FAR
It has been up and down. They had a couple of inviting fixtures to start the season at home against Birmingham and away to Wigan and you would have thought would have been good opportunities to get points on the board. There’s a school of thought that they would have won both of those games were it not for their captain Lee Cattermole being sent off. They looked quite strong against Birmingham but Cattermole got sent off for two yellows and he was already off the pitch when Asamoah Gyan scored his really good goal at Wigan last week. There was the win against Manchester City which was a really good team performance, they were under the cosh at times and there was a bit of luck involved because there was one of the misses of the century from Carlos Tevez in that game. I think Sunderland dug in and in the end deserved to get something from the game though a draw might have been a fair result. It’s been a bit of a rocky start but the good thing for Steve Bruce is that the team stuck together at Wigan last week and that’s the thing he will look for.
Asamoah Gyan will bring a lot of enthusiasm to the club. He’s a real breath of fresh air, he’s a lovely lad and a lovely chap to deal with. He had a lot of travelling to do before he arrived for the game last weekend and therefore he was on the bench - but he came on and scored an excellent goal and worked terrifically hard. A lot of people come to this league and struggle initially with the pace of the game and there was a sign that maybe that could be an issue - but he’s exciting Sunderland fans and that goal really got him off to the perfect start. He will take a lot of pressure off the shoulders of Darren Bent and hopefully he can weigh in with a few more goals.
REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL
In home games last season Sunderland did really well, the Stadium of Light has been the fortress that Sunderland need it to be if they are to challenge in the top half of the table. If you get around any team and deny them space you’ve got a chance. Arsenal had a lot of space to play in Europe on Wednesday night and they showed what they can do and Sunderland will look to deny them that.
THE MAN IN CHARGE
Steve Bruce has done a lot since taking over. There’s been a huge amount of change with players in and out since Roy Keane left the club, you could say now that the team against Arsenal will be Steve Bruce’s team. Their league position wasn’t great last season due to a poor mid-season period but the way they ended the season shows there is progress there and a certain steel about Sunderland that wasn’t there previously.
There’s a fairly solid look to the back line and I expect that will be tested to the extreme against Arsenal. Generally it’s a good young side but the emphasis is on young players, there aren’t too many experienced heads in there. It’s a matter of how they cope with what will be a big atmosphere at the weekend. There’s a young lad Jordan Henderson who some people are starting to take notice of and he contributed significantly at Wigan with a great pass for the goal. Steve Bruce has really got Steed Malbraque playing at the top of his game again particularly at home - he’s a real threat on the left now.