GUS POYET has warned his Sunderland players that if they go to the Emirates today expecting to be beaten, they probably will be.
Arsenal have occupied one of the top three spots in the Premier League all season, while the Black Cats have spent just one week outside of the bottom three, but Poyet is going into this afternoon’s fixture with the belief that his team can come away happy.
Although Arsenal have not conceded a goal at the Emirates for seven hours and 36 minutes of Premier League football, Poyet has been encouraged by Sunderland’s displays against big teams this season.
Sunderland have not visited Arsenal since earning a point on the opening day of the season in 2012-13 under Martin O’Neill, and have not won at the home of the Gunners for more than 30 years, in a game where Tony Adams made his debut.
“Wow, Tony has already retired,” exclaimed Poyet when he was informed of Sunderland’s barren run since Ian Atkins and Colin West helped Alan Durban’s Black Cats to a 2-1 win in November 1983.
“I have been on both sides (of expecting to win and not expecting to win). I went to Old Trafford a few times with Chelsea and we did exceptionally well and I went to Old Trafford with Tottenham and we didn’t have a chance. That’s a different mentality, and I’m not blaming Tottenham.
“There’s players that go into a game with a certain mentality and you can win or you can lose.
Some players go into a game with a mentality that ‘It’s impossible’.
“You are half beaten already if you think like that and I don’t want that. If that happens, we will throw away five games now. We’ve got Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea.
“We have proven it already. We beat Everton but we can’t beat the teams down at the bottom. You never know.”
With each of the top four to play Sunderland over the next few weeks, coupled with the fact that the cup games will see Poyet’s side lose ground in their relegation battle, there is a high chance that the Black Cats will be in the bottom three for the forseeable future, but Poyet remains positive.
“It doesn’t help,” admitted Poyet. “I’m still believing because two months ago it looked very, very difficult. Now it’s looks difficult but after what we’ve done it would be a shame if we didn’t stay up. I wouldn’t change it for anything. We will try to win the cup for sure.
“But I wouldn’t change this game for anything: we’re playing Arsenal, what a week we’ve got. We’re playing Arsenal, then the final then a game with a chance to go to the semi-finals and Wembley again. It could be an unbelievable year - it was terrible and now it could be unbelievable.
“I think this is a perfect preparation for Wembley and the perfect time to play them.
I think the pitch is similar for the players that haven’t been at Wembley. The pitch is practically similar.
“ The opposition play similar - not exactly the same way but they pass the ball, they make the pitch big and they make you run. They play with you a little bit, they are similar teams. They are better than us according to the league positions and we need to be spot on in both games to get something.
“We can win both games. I’m not saying we will but we can. We need it to be a day when there is no deflected shot, no own goal, no sending off, no mistakes, you’re solid and you have a chance.”