The way I see it - Arsenal v Sunderland

Last updated : 20 February 2009 By Jason Hogan
Whatever happens to Arsenal between now and the end of this season, my magic moment will be the memory of Eduardo planting an unerring header past a helpless keeper on his return to first team action.

It's strange how people react to different things in different ways. Normally, when the Arsenal score, I tend to jump around and bellow in excitement. But for some reason, when Eduardo scored his first goal, I broke into a spontaneous round of applause and before I knew it, I found myself still clapping even when the game kicked off again.

How do I explain that? Well, I suppose I just wanted to drink in the moment for as long as possible because it felt so seminal in as much as the boy had announced to us all, in that one emphatic gesture, that he was back.

Only Eduardo will know or will be able to assess the true value of what he did on Monday night and what it meant to him from an emotional standpoint. But from a personal point of view, Eduardo's triumphant comeback made me feel, for the first time this season, something like how I used to feel as an Arsenal fan.

You see, whilst I take genuine pride in being absolutely devoted to the Arsenal, it has been too easy in recent times to be consumed with negative thoughts about where the club is going both in the short term and long term.

Thanks to Arsenal's number nine, I was able to forget about the "bigger picture" and what the potential ramifications will be should Arsenal fail to do this or that come the end of the season. For that moment, nothing else seemed to matter and I felt like I didn't have a care in the world. Eduardo, old son, you have my eternal thanks for that.

Of course, as is the way of things at Arsenal, a little bit of happiness often comes at a cost and Eduardo is back on the shelf for a little while with a hamstring problem. Still, as one door closes another opens and it looks like the Arsenal faithful will get their chance to see Andrey Arshavin make his debut this weekend but I'll talk more about him later.

First of all, it's time to look forward to Saturday's league game at The Grove and the visit of Sunderland.

In the main, the Black Cats have had a season that has been a right old mixed bag. By the time Keane fell on his sword before Christmas, the feel good factor that existed in the summer had long disappeared. But I do think that Sunderland, despite a patchy spell of recent results, have a little bit more about them collectively as a team since Ricky Sbragia took charge in that they are generally a little bit tougher to beat these days.

I watched them play Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby and I was pretty impressed with them. They really should have won in the end given the golden chance Michael Chopra had right at the death. And they come into this game on the back of a solid home win over Stoke last time out.

When you talk about their danger men you have to start with Kenwyne Jones. Now I remember thinking that the boy could play in the Premier League ever since he had a spell at Sheffield Wednesday and he has proved me right.

I still have vivid memories of Jones giving Senderos a Drogba style chasing in last season's corresponding fixture and, to coin the old cliché, he can be almost unplayable on his day. The only criticism I would aim at him is that he does lack a little intensity and focus from time to time and I believe the sky would the limit for if he were to develop on that side of things.

But make no mistake, if Jones brings his 'A' game to The Grove this weekend the Arsenal defenders will have to be well and truly on their toes.

There has been speculation over the future of Djibril Cisse going round at the moment. I hope that he stays with the Black Cats because I think the move there has been good for him.

As a player, I don't think Cisse has quite delivered in the way people expected him to when he first came on the scene but despite two very bad leg injuries he has retained his pace and that, in itself, will make him a threat to us. He can be erratic in terms of his finishing though and I for one will be hoping he comes to The Grove having left his shooting boots behind.

I'm sure that the ex-Tottenham trio of Malbranque, Tainio and Reid will be fired up for the game. Malbranque has always been one of those players that always intrigued in the sense that he has always been an able player but has never quite fulfilled his potential. But don't be surprised, fellow Gooners, if he is the one who provides most of the ammunition for the likes of Cisse and Jones to operate with.

Looking at the game as a whole, I hope that the Arsenal can carry on from where they left off against Cardiff. Whilst the press and the media were predictable in their claims that our victory owed more to Cardiff not turning up than anything we actually did, I thought we were excellent.

It was like old times. We played with pace, purpose and intent. We made chances galore, missed a few and took a few. I had waited all season for us to get a result AND put in a performance and all things considered I think the Arsenal boys managed that on Monday night - despite what any outsider would say.

No doubt the imminent debut of Arshavin will certainly whet the appetites of many a Gooner. I wish the boy well. Players from the Baltic States have invariably struggled to adapt to football in England. I hope he proves to be an exception to that rule and that he is able to play a part in getting the Gunners a much needed result this weekend.

I'll certainly sink a few vodkas if that were to happen.