The way I see it - Sunderland v Arsenal

Last updated : 20 November 2009 By Jason Hogan

As is the case in politics, a week in football is indeed a long time so I'm sure you will empathise with me when I say it certainly seems like an age since the Arsenal played in the Premier League.

Looking back at our trip to Molineux before the international break, I must admit that it was a game that was a little on the strange side. Having said that, it was also a game that leant weight to the old adage that goals change games.

For the opening half hour, Wolves played with high tempo and commitment and they consistently hustled and harried us. They didn't mange to threaten us too much in open play but they had a couple of live opportunities from set pieces and had one of them gone in at a time when they were very much on top the game could easily have turned out different.

But from the moment Wolves conceded the first goal, they lost their shape and their general concentration and a game which had all the makings of being very tricky for Arsenal one minute became a bit of a stroll the next.

What really pleased me about that win was the fact that it was a really horrible fixture on paper. Wolves had absolutely nothing to lose and whilst a win would have made them feel that almost was possible in the future, Mick McCarthy always knew that he had a convenient fall back position if things went wrong.

McCarthy's post match reaction was that games against Arsenal were not going to make or break their season. I'm not going to say his sentiments were wrong but in a way, his post match sentiments made the win all the more satisfying.

People can say that we only beat Wolves but the true satisfaction for me lies in the fact that it's nice to beat teams who are actually afforded the kind of luxury you are not. A team like Wolves can have it both ways. If they had won against us, it would have gone down as one of THE memorable moments of the season and the sky would suddenly become the limit for them. But if Wolves lose to us they can simply dust themselves down and move on without a hint of reproach.

For us however it doesn't matter how good or bad a team Arsenal have. The fact is that in the eyes of the press and the media it's ALL about what Arsenal stand to lose and mitigating theories or arguments do not matter a jot if and when we fail to win.

This all brings me nicely round to Saturday's game up at the Stadium of Light where the Arsenal face Sunderland.

Despite his Man United connections and his almost nomadic managerial career I have a lot of time for Steve Bruce and I certainly like what he has built up at Sunderland.

His team may not have won any of their last four league games but Bruce has built a team that are well capable of embarrassing you if you take them too lightly.

For the first time probably since the days of Quinn and Phillips, the Black Cats now look like a proper team. For a while they were a team lacking real pace up front and a genuine goal scoring threat but Bruce has gone some way to rectifying that by bringing in Darren Bent and Fraizer Campbell to supplement Kenwyne Jones.

Bruce has also beefed up his midfield options with the acquisitions of Cattermole (injured at the moment) and new Sunderland captain Lorik Cana. And he has reinforced his defensive line with former Hull centre back Michael Turner.

Whilst it's true to say that Messrs Jones and Turner will both be missing through suspension and that Lee Cattermole is out as I said injured this doesn't mean that Arsenal have suddenly arrived on easy street.

It's not in my nature to be a pessimist but warning signs have been flashing in my mind over this game and I would have reservations over us being victorious even if we were at full strength going into it.

It still makes me wince slightly when I think that Sunderland managed to bag both Cattermole and Cana for a combined fee of £12 million. I'm very much in the school of thought that either these guys would have been very useful to us if only as squad members.

What's more, I think the Gunners will do well to keep an eye on Messrs Malbranque and Reid. I've always had a sneaky regard for Malbranque and his busy style. It baffles me as to why he has not really hit the heights as a player because there was a time when I personally thought he had the potential to become a genuine superstar. Andy Reid will probably be the last person on earth to become a size zero but nevertheless he is enjoying a bit of a renaissance up in the North East. He seems to be relishing the fact that Bruce relies on him to be a creative influence and his ability to strike a ball cleanly both in open play and set pieces makes him someone Arsenal will do well not to ignore.

As I said earlier, the warning signs are flashing away in my mind. If our injury list isn't enough of a concern then the fact that we are playing the Black Cats in November after an international break certainly is.

I talked earlier in the season about us staying faithful to the way we play our football and not neglecting it if we are to be invariably successful. If we do that and don't allow ourselves to fall into auto pilot mode then we have a decent chance. Anything less than that could easily cost us dear though.