Arsenal vs. Sunderland: 6 Key Battles at the Emirates

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Arsenal vs. Sunderland: 6 Key Battles at the Emirates
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

As we look ahead to the Sunderland game this Sunday, I guess it's safe to say there are two types of Arsenal fans at the moment.

One type who wish that Nicklas Bendtner was still playing for Arsenal and are relieved that he isn't allowed to play for Sunderland on Sunday. And the other type who are relieved that he isn't an Arsenal player and wish he could have played for Sunderland on Sunday, so that the first type could see how bad he really is.

Whoever you are and wherever you're from, if you're a Gooner, you must have nodded your head vigorously at some point during the previous paragraph.

With the international break happily behind us, Arsenal welcome Sunderland to the Emirates Stadium for yet another basement battle. Fifteenth against 16th (silver lining - we're 15th). It's an unhappy place to be, but we're there of our own doing.  And although Sunderland are a club in some disarray at the moment, it isn't a fixture that necessarily has three points written all over it.  

Our last three home games against Sunderland have thrown up two hugely frustrating nil-nil draws and a two-nil win (Bendtner scoring the first!). Even while playing at their place, we've missed penalties, had players sent off and conceded injury-time goals (in fact, all of those things happened in one game last season!).

And when it comes to current form, there really isn't much to choose between the two teams. Sunderland have one league win all season, but they haven't conceded more than two goals in any game. Arsenal, meanwhile, have won twice but have been models of fragility, unpredictability and instability. 

Our injury list, while much shortened compared to the past, features three of our most important players—Thomas Vermaelen, Jack Wilshere and Bacary Sagna. And the latter two will be out till the new year. Up front, we continue to rely excessively on skipper Robin van Persie for goals and inspiration. And as for the defense, well, I don't want to depress myself on a Friday, so I'll say no more.

However, top quality players don't become terrible overnight, and if we can iron out the small mistakes we've been making, we can definitely win this game.

Here are six key battles, most of which Arsenal need to win, to ensure that we take all three points.

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