May 19, 2015

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and his players were probably some of the happiest folks in the United Kingdom to see the calendar flip from November to December earlier this week.

Wenger's Gunners went winless in November and are hoping to find their winning form again Saturday when the club welcomes Sunderland to the Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners (8-3-3) were held to a 1-1 draw with Norwich City last time out which saw a 30th-minute strike from Mesut Ozil cancelled out by a 43rd-minute equaliser from Lewis Grabban.

To make matters worse for Arsenal, midfielder Santi Cazorla suffered knee ligament damage and is set to miss at least three months, joining midfield partner Francis Coquelin, who is also on the sidelines until February.

Forward Alexis Sanchez and defender Laurent Koscielny were also injured against Norwich. Sanchez could be out for up to a month, but Koscielny's injury is not believed to be serious.

With the lengthy list of players receiving medical treatment and a Champions League crunch match at Greek side Olympiakos looking Wednesday, a visit from the Black Cats could be just what the doctor ordered for the North Londoners.

Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 11 league meetings with Sunderland, collecting seven wins and four draws. In 28 overall matches, Arsenal have topped Sunderland 16 times and the Blacks Cats have won just three league encounters, with the clubs also drawing nine times.

The Gunners will have to improve their home performances to end this three-match skid. The club has only scored eight goals on home soil, better than only Aston Villa, Watford and Stoke City.

Despite the injury setbacks and poor form, Wenger believes his side is ready to step up and deliver a big performance.

"Yes I'm glad November is over because in the last couple of weeks we lost Francis, Alexis and Santi - basically three players in two games," Wenger told Arsenal.com. "That is of course too much, but hopefully we now have Theo not too far away, and Koscielny coming back too.

"I believe first of all it's always a disappointment to lose the players at an important moment of the season. But on the other hand, it's a great challenge to take for the team and a great opportunity to show that we are ready for a fight and we can deal with it. We prepared ourselves to go through periods like that, and I'm convinced the players are ready."

Sunderland (3-3-8), on the other hand, are looking for a third straight win, but to get it they'll have to do something they've never previously achieved - win a league match at Arsenal. Coming off a 2-0 win against Stoke City in which Patrick Van Aanholt and Duncan Watmore netted inside the final 10 minutes, Sunderland should come in feeling confident as their annual battle to avoid the drop has begun in earnest.

Should the Black Cats manage a win, it will be the first time the club has won three straight since reeling off four straight at the business end of 2013-14 to avoid relegation.

Sam Allardyce's side will need to improve their league-worst away defence, which has conceded 18 goals in seven games, if they have any chance to get a result on Saturday.

Sunderland will be without the services of midfielder Sebastian Larsson and forward Jermain Defoe who will unavailable due to injuries.

"Seb Larsson has been to Barcelona for some treatment," Allardyce said. "It will speed the healing process up we believe and Jermain is healing up particularly well. It seems that he's had a good recovery time from this sort of injury before, so it doesn't look as serious as first thought.

"No Jermain won't be okay for this weekend but next weekend it would be looking like he will be okay," the manager added. "Jack Rodwell should be joining training tomorrow and everybody else is okay."

Arsenal took four points from Sunderland last season, including a scoreless draw at the Emirates in May. The Gunners won 2-0 at the Stadium of Light in October 2014 on a pair of goals by Sanchez.

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