Arsenal vs Sunderland 15:00
Arsenal played out a goalless draw with Manchester Utd at the Emirates last time out in the league as they missed the chance to go back to the summit of the table. Only a point stands between the Gunners and Chelsea though so Arsene Wenger will be hoping his side can avoid dropping any more points at home this weekend.
A bedrock of Arsenal’s success this season has been the outstanding form of Laurent Koscielny, the centre-half providing a sense of confidence and stability at the back for the Gunners. According to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, he ranks third in the league this season for total interceptions with 69.
Although perhaps not performing at the level we would usually expect of him, Mesut Ozil has nonetheless still been racking up some impressive statistics. He leads the league for passes completed in the opponent’s half with 1,013 and is the only player to have moved beyond the 1,000 mark.
As if to emphasise the quality the Gunners have in the centre of the park, their collective passing statistics against Manchester Utd showed just how dominant they can be when in possession. Four of the top six players for passes completed in the opponent’s half during the last round were Arsenal players (Ozil, Cazorla, Wilshere and Gibbs), with a combined total of 182.
Serge Gnarby has been a revelation this season, with many predicting a bright future for the German youth international. Although noted for his impressive ability with the ball at his feet, he has also shown a willingness to get involved defensively as well, an encouraging sign in the modern game where even the most gifted are not exempt from their defensive duties. He’s won 78.6% of his 14 challenges to date this season. Gnabry is 14/5 to score at any time this weekend with 888sport.com.
Sunderland’s last scheduled fixture again Manchester City was postponed due to high winds and Gus Poyet will have been hoping that his side can take something away from North London this time weekend as they look to fight their way out of the bottom three.
Adam Johnson won the Barclays Player of the Month Award for January and it is difficult to argue with the Premier League’s decision given some of his stats this season. The England winger unsurprisingly leads the Sunderland squad for total attacking contributions (shots on goal, assists, dribbles, crosses) with 76 according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index.
Midfielder Lee Cattermole was the subject of transfer speculation during the recent window and it’s not difficult to understand why. On his day, Cattermole can be a highly effective enforcer with an underrated passing game. He has one of the best tackle success rates in the Sunderland squad, winning 68.4% of his 57 challenges this season, whilst racking up 209 passes in the opponent’s half this term.
Jozy Altidore has impressed many this season with his physical presence and ability to link the play in the final third. Sunderland will need him to be on top form this weekend against one of the strongest defensive partnerships in the league though in Koscielny and Mertesacker. If any one is going to test them though, it’s most likely to be him given that he has the best shot accuracy rate of any Sunderland player this term with 68.8% of his 16 efforts so far working the opposition ‘keeper. Altidore is 5/1 to score at any time this weekend with 888sport.com.
No player has epitomised the renewed defensive energy under Gus Poyet more than Sunderland captain John O’Shea, the centre-half leading from the front when it comes to his defensive numbers. He leads the squad for total defensive contributions (blocks, clearances, interceptions, tackles won) with 206 to his name.