Watching snatches of Norwich v Arsenal on Sunday, I formed the clear impression that Duncan Watmore – and Steven Fletcher and/or Jermain Defoe – could cause a few scares for the Gunners’ rather dodgy defence. Not Bayern-style problems but enough to make the visit to the Emirates this Saturday less of a worry than it might be.
Which Arsenal and which Sunderland turn up will, of course, be the key.
Big Sam has inspired the team to two disciplined performances producing a pair of clean sheets and six points. That transforms our survival prospects, but bad results from the coming clutch of games, which involve trips to Chelsea and Man City as well as Arsenal, would plonk us back into deep trouble.
So it’s time to Guess the Score again. How will the Lads fare in north London? Last season, we went there needing a point to be sure of staying up and a terrific defensive display, capped by Costel Pantilimon at his shotstopping best, secured it. We’ve done it before and can do it again. But Arsenal can be formidable opponents and no Sunderland supporter can think of the 4-1 trouncing a week before the 2014 League Cup final without wincing.
Back on Bonfire Night, any Salut! Sunderland reader whose eyes turned to Monsieur Salut’s pages at ESPN FC will have detected another wince as I described Allardyce’s painfully limited immediate targets (see http://www.espnfc.com/club/sunderland/366/blog/post/2700096/allardyce-and-unambitious-targets-at-sunderland).
He wanted Sunderland’s points tally to be double figures by the time the final whistle was blown on his eighth game in charge, Watford at home on Dec 12.
Well he’s managed it with two games to spare and now has a creditable nine points from six as manager. If he can once again get the best out of the Lads, an upset of one kind or the other for the title-chasing but inconsistent Gunners is a distinct possibility. But any return of familiar weaknesses will probably be punished.
Usual rules. The first to post the correct scoreline, before kickoff of course, is the winner whoever they support, of a fine mug from our Guess the Score sponsors, Personalised Football Gifts.
The one you see is the Sunderland version but an Arsenal-supporting winner would receive his or her mug with an appropriately different design.
Have a go, even if you have more mugs than you’ll ever need. And if you have not already done so, email another footie products outfit, Classic Football Shirts, with the name of Sunderland’s all-time record scorer and you will stand a chance of winning a £50 voucher to spend on its goodies. Please do NOT post the answer here – right or wrong, it will be deleted. This posting is for Arsenal v SAFC scoreline predictions only.
Enter the competition by sending your reply to firstname.lastname@example.org before the closing date of midnight on December 18 . No answers or comments below – the winner will be selected at random from all correct entries received. There is no special consolation prize for answering ‘it’s either Jozy Altidore or Danny Graham’ but every entrant will receive a £5 voucher towards purchases at Classic Football Shirts
Oh, and I nearly forgot, Ha’way the Lads at the Emirates.