Will it be lights out, all out in Sunderland for Arsene?
FA Cup Fifth Round
17:15 - live on ITV1
Match betting: Sunderland 9/5 Draw 21/10 Arsenal 13/8
Things took a turn for the worse for Arsene Wenger at the San Siro when the realisation of just how delicate his side has become was highlighted for the World to see when Italian giants AC Milan ran riot in an easy 4-0 victory. The humiliating defeat brought to an end a bright spell at the Emirates. At the end of last weekend's games the Gunners had finally climbed to that all important fourth spot thanks to a faltering Chelsea side. They had, unlike some other English sides, reached the last 16 of the Champions League, still had realistic hopes of FA Cup success and were enjoying the company of ex-Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.
The New York Red Bull Striker's loan spell has now expired and his contribution will be missed by an injury depleted squad that will undoubtedly be lacking in confidence after being all but knocked out of the Champions League. Arsenal go into the game as big as 13/8, however that maybe unsurprising to many considering the form of Martin O'Neill's Black Cats. Defeat in last weekend's Premier League match against Arsenal was only their second defeat in twelve games in all competitions and the first at the Stadium of Light for Martin O'Neill.
Arsenal came from behind in that game with an injury time strike from Thierry Henry and William Hill's Match Winner takes inspiration from that result. The offer for the 17:15 kick-off on Wearside is for either side to come from behind and win at odds of 6/1, originally 4/1. With news that Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny have both been added to the Gunners injury list, goals could be on the cards and this 6/1 offer is a real tempter.
The return of Ghanaian winger Gervinho from the African Cup of Nations is the one positive for Arsene Wenger but even that may be tarnished. Gervinho's missed penalty in the final shootout helped lead to Zambia's eventual win, so don't expect him to be too enthusiastic about coming back to this FA Cup tie.
Despite being the only all Premier League encounter in this weekend's FA Cup Martin O'Neill will relish the opportunity to go up against Arsenal so soon after their narrow defeat to them in the league. In the league Arsene Wenger's side have conceded a massive 26 goals on their travels, the same amount as the Black Cats have in all their 25 games. Over 2.5 goals can be backed at 4/5 and Sunderland to score in both halves is available at 3/1.
Arsenal looked ineffective up front against AC Milan with only Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Robin van Persie demonstrating the necessary drive to create problems for the Rosseneri defence. RVP can be backed at 7/2 for first scorer and 10/11 about anytime, whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain, who seems to have benefited the most from the presence of Thierry Henry, is 7/1 first and 2/1 for anytime scorer.
Saturday's game represents a pivotal moment in Arsenal's season, the FA Cup is their last realistic chance of silverware since they won it back in 2005. The second most successful club in the competition's history will have to quickly get over their European disappointment or the 9/5 Black Cats will duly pounce on their chance of revenge at the Stadium of light.