The Emirates build-up, from Salut! Sunderland‘s viewpoint, is done.
We’ve run two completely different but equally compelling Q&A interviews with Arsenal supporters, one a Gooner and the other emphatically not, and Pete Sixsmith has reminded us all of Paul Danson’s late bid, in 1996, for worst refereeing performance of the century award.
Do we expect much out of tomorrow? If truth be told, no. Our best hope is a combination of Chelsea-away form on our part and pre-Barca restraint on Arsenal’s.
I see fat chance of that happening but, then, one much inferior Sunderland side came close to nicking a point in 2007 and another did get one a year and bit later. Why, I even saw us win at Highbury in a relegation season – 3-2 in the Worthington Cup, under of all people Howard Wilkinson. Either one of two of those results would be welcome tomorrow.
But even if we get the beating most pundits will predict, the good news is that Danny Welbeck is in with an outside chance of making the bench.
It is blindingly obvious that our decline has coincided with the absence of two or three key players of whom Welbeck – who started the season out of position and out of sorts, but became one of the Premier’s most feared attacking players – is one and Lee Cattermole, for all his disciplinary troubles, is another.
Neither can get back soon enough for me.
This is how Steve Bruce put it at the club site (where, Pete, you’ll be pleased to know I have posted a question about why Reserve games are being played behind closed doors):
“Danny only returned to training on Tuesday, but the way he has played over the last few days suggests it might not be too soon for him to make the substitutes’ bench this weekend.
We’ll assess it and make a decision on the day, but he has been looking extremely sharp and, while you don’t want to bring a player back too early, it’s possible he could be ready.
He was back at Manchester United for a few days for them to assess him and I think he did some training there, too, which would help explain why he’s come back so strongly.”
Lose, draw or – glory be – win at the Emirates, DW’s imminent return is a reason to remain cheerful.