RICKY Sbragia believes Sunderland can turn the fear factor on Arsenal this weekend – thanks to 19-goal strike pairing Kenwyne Jones and Djibril Cisse.
No team has scored at the Emirates this month and with the returning Eduardo likely to be given his first Premier League start for a year, there are reasons for Sunderland’s travelling support to be wary.
But despite Arsenal’s array of attacking weapons, Sbragia has pledged not to revert to the defensive tactics that he used at Old Trafford in his first game in charge of the Black Cats.
That means sticking to the 4-4-2 formation, with Cisse and Jones leading the attacking charge as Sunderland look to take their first points at ‘big four’ opposition since their return to the Premier League.
And for all the talk of the Black Cats having to show respect, Sbragia believes Arsenal will be justifiably scared of the damage that Sunderland’s front two can inflict.
“I think opposition teams are giving us more respect because they recognise Djibril and Kenwyne can score goals and be dangerous,” he said.
“I know when we played Arsenal at home they were wary of Djib – there is a fear there because he can outstrip defenders.
“Djib is a big game player so that might bring the best out of him. He gets a bit frustrated at times and annoyed because he doesn’t always train because we like to protect him, but he always wants to play. He’s always a threat.”
Sunderland’s previous attempts to take points from the division’s big guns have seen them rely on a counter-attack strategy and while Sbragia recognises the damage that Arsenal can do, he says his team will not be daunted by the Gunners.
“We’re not going there to make the numbers up. It’s important that we’re not too negative,” he said.
“We don’t want to give them too much respect and I’ll be looking at playing two banks of four, keeping things tight and seeing what our strikers can do.
“When Roy was in charge, we felt 4-5-1 was the best system for us with the players we had but we’ve got more options now.”