Our Co-Editor Dave Seager did an intervuew with Salut Sunderland ahead of this weekend’s clash so we asked if they would return the favour.
Since the last time I wrote a ‘View from the Opponents’ feature, a lot has happened in the world of Arsenal. We’ve seen some injuries, Wenger’s disastrous 1000th game at the Bridge, our first piece of silverware in 9 years, the arrival of Alexis, some more injuries, the emergence of The Coq and Bellerin, another (albeit, less nerve-wracking) FA Cup, yet more injuries and the magic of Ozil and Petr Cech. Par for course from Arsenal I’d say.
But still, we’ve officially said goodbye to November, 2015. A month filled with pulled hamstrings, strained calves and damaged ligaments is past us and we can look ahead to what is, hopefully, going to be a productive December. Having just 15 fully fit first team players fills me with dread but Wenger has never allowed a bad spell of results to get out of hand like say, Mourinho, so I am pretty hopeful.
We welcome Sunderland to the Emirates this weekend after consecutive away games and on paper at least, it is the right fixture at the right time. The Black Cats climbed out of the relegation zone with consecutive wins over Palace and Stoke so aren’t short of confidence. And everyone at Arsenal knows what we’ll face on Saturday from Big Sam’s team: 10 men behind the ball, no room in and around the box and the odd counter attack. Just the recipe for another frustrating night if Arsenal don’t get out of second gear quickly.
Anyway, I got in touch with Pete Sixsmith from Salut! Sunderland and he took some time out to answer my questions. Take a look below to read about Pete’s association with Sunderland’s 1979 record signing Stan Cummins, Yann M’Vila, Arsenal’s injury problems and much more.
- Tell our readers about yourself and Salut! Sunderland.
My name is Pete Sixsmith and I write for Salut Sunderland. The blog was set up in 2006 by my good friend Colin Randall, a lifelong Sunderland supporter like me and unlike me, an excellent journalist who sets very high standards which we endeavour to maintain. If you want “yah, boo, sucks” writing then this is probably not the place for you. I am a retired history teacher from Co. Durham whose claim to fame is that I used to teach Stan Cummins who played for Sunderland in the 70’s and 80’s – and Andy Cook who is currently Barrow’s top scorer in The National League.
- Before getting into the game, do you think, in hindsight, that it was a mistake to talk Advocaat out of retirement during the summer?
Hindsight is the greatest gift of all. Had I had it in 1962 when I first went to Roker Park, I would now be an ace stamp collector or rock music cataloguer. It was a mistake for Dick to come back. At his age, the stresses and strains of coping with a club like Sunderland are too much. He did a fantastic job last season to pull us round as you all saw at the Grove when we gained that point to stay up. But he was disillusioned with some of the transfer activity and it showed. However, he was responsible for bringing in Jeremain Lens and Yann M’Vila so we should be thankful for that.
- How crucial has Sam Allardyce been since taking over? What is the general opinion on him in the fan base?
He was seen by most as the only appointment we could make given the dreadful situation we found ourselves in yet again. He has a history at the club having played and coached here so he knew what the support and the area were like. His brief sojourn up the road and his hounding out by The Geordie Nation made him an even better fit. He has made an encouraging start and looks to have organised the players and has square pegs in square holes. His style of play is to ensure that you don’t defend and (Everton apart) it has worked with only two goals conceded – one a foul on the keeper, the other a foolish penalty given away. He may “park the bus” to start with but he is aware that there are some decent attacking players at the club and he uses them. He is a good old fashioned pragmatist is Sam.
- Does beating two strong mid-table teams in Palace and Stoke show that Sunderland should now probably aim higher than just avoiding relegation this season?
It would be lovely to think so, but there is a long way to go and even Villa could pull around. It is crucial for the club, the owner and the supporters to stay up and perhaps build a couple of seasons of respectable mid table mediocrity. Then we can begin our onslaught on the Nou Camp, the Allianz Arena and the San Siro!
- Looks like top scorer Jermain Defoe will miss this weekend’s game? How crucial is his loss and who can step in instead?
He is a good player and a good man. At his age he wants/needs to play every week and should do if fit. But he is not the only show in town. Fabio Borini could replace him; he became a hero two years ago and has now returned on a permanent deal. It’s all been a bit stop start so far due to injuries but the support is hoping that he can seize his chance to play alongside Fletcher. And there is Duncan Watmore, the holder of a First Class Degree in Economics and the only Sunderland player to be privately educated.
- One player who has impressed the most?
Yann M’Vila is the one to watch. He is not spectacular but he is one of the best players I have seen in a red and white striped shirt. He is on loan for the season from Rubin Kazan in Russia and we will do well to keep him next season. He would do well in your team and he is French….
- How have the summer signings fared?
Kaboul looks happier in the three central defenders set up (No silly booing please; you wouldn’t catch us doing that just because someone has had the misfortune to play for Newcastle. Kevin Nolan was always given a fair reception at the Stadium of Light). Sebastian Coates is another who looks happier in the triple centre half position. He is a good stopper and had an excellent game at your place in May when on loan from Liverpool. DeAndre Yeldin (on loan from Spurs) looks a decent player and is learning to defend. We have hardly seen Adam Matthews so it is difficult to assess him. M’Vila is the pick of the bunch; tackles well (most of the time), passes well and looks quality. Jeremaine Lens has shown in flashes that he is a very good player. Ole Toivonen started well but has been injured as has Fabio Borini. There are some decent players there for sure.
- Your take on Arsenal as a club.
As a club as far removed from Sunderland as it is possible to be both on and off the field. They are one of the two teams that have played nothing but top level football in all my years as a follower of the game (Everton are the other) and I have a sneaky admiration for them. But the support is so diverse and widespread that they never strike me as a club rooted in its community. A couple of seasons ago there was a tannoy request for Monty and Rupert to meet someone after the match. Sunderland supporters found that hilarious! We don’t have many Montys’ and Ruperts’ on Wearside. But I prefer them to Chelsea, a club I detest.
- What’s your take on the injury crisis at Arsenal that everyone is talking about?
Isn’t there always an injury crisis at Arsenal? Other clubs have injuries. Jack Rodwell has been injured ever since we paid £10m for him.
- Despite taking only two of the last nine points available, Arsenal are only a couple of points off the top. What do you think that says about the Premier League?
Hopefully the league is opening up a bit. The way Leicester have seized their opportunity is a breath of fresh air (if only they would get rid of those bloody clappy things their fans use). Spurs have a strong side this year and Manchester United are dull. The likes of Pochettino and Klopp are interesting coaches who may have the same influence on English football that Wenger had. But they still have a bit to prove.
- Arsenal player who has impressed you the most.
Easy; the excellent Alexis Sanchez. Fancy swapping him for Danny Graham? Thought not.
- Predictions for the season? (Top 4, relegation, Sunderland, Arsenal positions)
Top four: Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur.
My dream bottom three would be Chelsea Aston Villa and Newcastle United but I think it will be Bournemouth, Newcastle and Villa. Sunderland to finish 14th.
- Where will the game be won and lost? Score prediction.
By the sounds of it, in your medical room! Or on the edge of our penalty area. If we can frustrate you early on, I will plump for a 1-1 draw.