As per, Seventy3' went out scouting for some fans of the upcoming opposition during the week and met Kevin Whicher of Arsenal fanzine 'the gooner'. You might see their sellers around the SOL tomorrow so after you've picked up your copy of Seventy3', why not grab a copy of their fanzine, which is a top quality read.
Back to business, then. Despite losing to Arsenal last week, optimism is still rife amongst the Sunderland faithful who hope and pray that a win tomorrow will set us on the path to glory. I asked Kevin what he thought ahead of the game.
The game at the weekend was fairly close and a last gasp winner settled the tie – did you expect Sunderland to be so competitive or did you feel you would always come to Wearside and do a job?
I wasn’t optimistic, so the win was a pleasant surprise.
If anyone was going to score the winner in that game then it was always going to be Henry, with the goal being his last of many for Arsenal in the Premier League. How much of a boost has his presence in the side given the fans and the club as a whole?
I think he has probably been a good influence off the pitch, as much as a pick-me-up after some of the defeats suffered in his time at the club. And he excited the fans too – just his coming back lifted the place and distracted a bit from the prevailing mood of gloom that has developed over the last couple of months.
Arsenal tend to always utilise their squad when tackling cup games and Wenger’s hand might be forced with another game tonight in Milan meaning his squad will be stretched, with this the third game in one week. Do you expect to see a ‘weaker’ side fielded at the weekend or is it about time Arsene started taking cup competitions seriously?
He should certainly take cup competitions seriously, as he desperately needs to win something. And in truth, he doesn’t have a lot to rotate with at the moment. So I think you will see a pretty similar side next weekend to that which played last weekend, aside from those who injury prevents starting.
Stephane Sessegnon has been linked to your club in recent days via the usual press routes. Do you think he is a player that could improve your side?
There is undoubtedly a need to provide cover for Robin van Persie and given there is every chance he will leave the club this summer, Sessegnon is a logical replacement. So he could improve it now by giving us more attacking options, but as a replacement for Van Persie, in fairness, it’s a step down.
Did anyone from our side particularly impress on Saturday? Young James McClean and Jack Colback earned all the plaudits after the game from a Sunderland perspective and it will be interesting to see how they influence the cup fixture.
Indeed McClean was the obvious standout. In fairness, though I tend to concentrate too much on Arsenal players to make objective assessments about the opposition. I have always regretted the decision to let Seb Larsson leave the club as I thought he was a good player we should have utilised more instead of bringing in the likes of Denilson and Abou Diaby, who have proved a waste of space.
What are your favourite memories of games against Sunderland? Ties between the two are usually close and Arsenal very rarely go home with a win when playing up here.
Probably the FA Cup tie up there when Bergkamp scored that wonder goal and put his hand over his mouth in celebration. Was it the FA Cup? The memory isn’t all that these days. Have an idea it was a replay anyway, so probably was.
Obviously everyone knows about the impact that former gooner Niall Quinn has had at Sunderland over his many years here. What are your memories of the big man, and is he fondly remembered for his time at Highbury during the 80s?
He wasn’t rated highly at the time, but you couldn’t fault him for effort and commitment. When Alan Smith arrived, the writing was on the wall for him. Today, he is looked back on with affection, his reputation enhanced by the things he has done at Sunderland.
Finally, do you think that you will come away from Sunderland with another win? Is this the year that Arsenal will finally win a trophy, with many of the top sides already out of the competition?
If I were a betting man, I’d back your boys. The Milan game will have taken a lot out of Wenger’s team, as your own replay with Boro eventually did for you last weekend. Could be close, but I think this is the end of the road for the Gunners in this season’s tournament.