Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Sunderland

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  • The last time Sunderland won away at Arsenal was 1983
  • Arsenal have not conceded in their last 5 PL home games
  • The Gunners haven’t scored in the opening half of their last 6 PL home games

Arsenal host Sunderland on Saturday (Watch live on USA, 10am ET and online via Live Extra) at the Emirates, with Arsene Wenger’s men hoping to pick themselves up after their deflating UEFA Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

The Gunners went down fighting to Munich, as Mesut Ozil’s missed penalty and Wojciech Szczesny’s red card changed the shape of the game. Back in the Premier League, Arsenal are still right up there at the top of the standings as they sit just one point behind leaders Chelsea. Arsenal need their star man Ozil to recapture the form which saw him dazzle on his debut away at Sunderland last September. I was there for that game and he was sublime. The German international is lacking in confidence but he has more than enough quality to come through this rough patch.

Sunderland are in the bottom three, so this should be a routine home win for Arsenal… right? Think again. Sunderland are unbeaten in six games away from home, keeping four clean sheets in those and three of the last five matches between these two at the Emirates have ended in 0-0 draws.

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The Black Cats are scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the table but do have the League Cup final against Manchester City coming up at Wembley next Sunday, Sunderland’s first major final for over 22 years. However with silverware in the back of the minds of both teams, Arsenal will be desperate to rack up another home win and potentially jump over Chelsea back into top spot in the PL. Expect this match to be a tight and tense affair.

In team news Arsenal will be without left back Kieran Gibbs who injured his hamstring against Bayern on Wednesday, while Olivier Giroud is expected to return to the starting lineup after being rested. Sunderland could have Steven Fletcher and Carlos Cuellar back fit, while Wes Brown is suspended.

What they’re saying

Wenger on facing Sunderland: “We are playing in three different competitions in one week. It’s extremely difficult to adjust every time and it’s physically very demanding. We have fought hard so far in the Premier League and of course now we want to come back and win our home game.”

Poyet on Arsenal: “Arsenal played on Wednesday and they are supposed to be tired, which is a possibility. So we need to make sure we play at a high intensity, keep the ball and attack. We will try to use everything to our advantage, but we know how difficult it will be.”

Prediction

Arsenal’s fans will be looking for a reaction from their team, as the Gunners must bounce back from their midweek defeat to Bayern. Sunderland will be distracted by their cup final next week, but players will also be playing for places in that lineup so the Gunners shouldn’t underestimate the Mackems. This will be a midfield battle, and probably not the prettiest of games. Arsenal 2-0 seems to be the bet during home games this season. I can see that happening once again on Saturday.

England international Delph expecting child in middle of World Cup

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England international Fabian Delph could face quite the dilemma if England advances past the group stage of the World Cup.

Delph’s wife Natalie is expecting the couple’s third child on June 30, which is two days after their pivotal group stage match against Belgium, and two days before the squad would take the field July 1 for its Round of 16 game should they win Group G. If they finish second in the group, they would play their Round of 16 game on July 3.

When asked what his plans are, Delph joked that his wife would manage on her own. “She’s tough, she’s a Yorkshire lass so she’ll deal with it,” Delph said with a smile.

He then coughed up the truth: they’re not quite sure what the plan is.

“We’re not 100% certain, with a game on the 28th there might be an opportunity to fly back and then get back fast,” he said. “[England manager] Gareth [Southgate] has been fantastic. There’s nothing more important than family to me – family always comes first and always will.”

There’s another dilemma that Southgate must navigate involving Delph. The 28-year-old is a natural winger, but played wing-back in Pep Guardiola‘s title-winning system for much of the year and saw a massive uptick in form in the new role, playing in place of the injured Benjamin Mendy. Southgate must decide where he wants to deploy Delph – if at all – and if he wishes to fit his formation and tactics to mold Delph’s season under Guardiola.

Authorities drop assault charges against Hope Solo

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KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Prosecutors in Washington state have dropped domestic violence charges against former U.S. national team star goalkeeper Hope Solo.

Solo was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault in 2014 after police said she assaulted two family members at a home in Kirkland, east of Seattle. The case was delayed by appeals.

KING-TV reports that city prosecutors dropped the charges Wednesday, saying the witnesses in the case wanted to move on with their lives and did not want to participate in a trial. An attorney for Kirkland, Melissa Osman, wrote in court documents that the circumstances were unlikely to be repeated.

The longtime national team goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist recently ran unsuccessfully for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. She has called for equal pay and equal treatment for the U.S. women’s team.

Mark Hughes signs new long-term contract at Southampton

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Mark Hughes has gone from Stoke City outcast to Southampton savior in little under six months time.

The Welsh boss was let go from Stoke City with the Potters 18th in the table and headed towards eventual relegation, but he was picked up by fellow relegation candidates Southampton after the departure of Mauricio Pellegrino. He steered the club to safety, finishing three points above the drop in 17th.

With the Saints in the top flight for another season, the club has announced the signing of Hughes to a new three-year contract.

“Mark, Eddie and I are thrilled to have signed long-term contracts with the club. It was the only option we considered, having spent the last eight weeks with the club,” Hughes said of himself and his assistant coaches Mark Bowen and Eddie Niedzwiecki. “Now it is vital that we take the unbelievable support we received from the fans during the last few games into next season. The staff and the players will work hard every day to deliver the success this club deserves, and with everyone pulling together we will achieve our goals.”

Hughes guided Stoke City to three consecutive ninth-placed finishes, the highest the club had ever finished in the English top flight, but they finished 13th last year and regressed even further this campaign. The sale of playmaker Marko Arnautovic was particularly damaging, and the club scored just 35 goals in 38 games as a result.

At Southampton, Hughes took over a club that sat in 17th with just eight matches to go. He lost three Premier League games in a row to start his tenure and only won two league matches with Saints the rest of the way, but managed to keep the club barely afloat.

Reports: Arsenal nearing deal for Lichtsteiner on free transfer

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According to multiple reports in England, including the BBC, Arsenal is looking to sign Juventus right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner on a free transfer this summer, potentially becoming the first signing under new manager Unai Emery.

Lichtsteiner is out of contract at Juventus this summer, having been with the club since 2011. Lichtsteiner has played in Italy since joining Lazio in 2008.

The Swiss international will captain his country at the World Cup this summer in Russia and will earn his 100th cap in his second match at the event.

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Lichtsteiner has been a mainstay in a Juventus squad that has won seven consecutive Serie A titles, but at 34 years old has been slowly phased out. He has made less than 30 Serie A appearances each of the last seasons, despite a nearly spotless bill of health since undergoing heart surgery in October of 2015. Last season, Lichtsteiner completed just nine full 90 minute performances, including just three after November. Lichtsteiner may have had an even smaller role this most recent campaign had Mattia de Sciglio not struggled with injuries for much of the season.

The Gunners have Hector Bellerin as the club’s main right-back, with the Spaniard leading the squad in total minutes played this past season. However, Bellerin’s level of performance has regressed considerably since proving one of the best young Premier League players in his first full season in 2015/16.

Lichtsteiner has also been linked with a move to Borussia Dortmund, where Lukasz Piszczek mans the right-back spot, but talks between the clubs reportedly broke down.