Arsenal clash is a big opportunity for Sunderland, says Vito Mannone

Vito Mannone

Vito Mannone

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Ex-Arsenal keeper Vito Mannone says Sunderland have to view Sunday’s visit of the out-of-form Gunners as an opportunity to further strengthen their survival bid.

Last weekend’s 3-0 triumph at relegation rivals Norwich City has given Sunderland renewed hope of a fourth successive escape from the drop after narrowing the gap with the fourth bottom Canaries to a solitary point and now facing the opportunity to overhaul them in their game in hand against Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger’s men – who host West Brom on Thursday night – have won just two of their last seven Premier League games, with FA Cup and Champions League exits in the midst of that sequence of results.

And with Sunderland so desperate for points in the relegation battle, Mannone – who spent eight years coming through the ranks at Arsenal - believes the Black Cats have to make their Carrow Road triumph count by keeping the bandwagon rolling at the Stadium of Light this weekend.

Mannone said: “I’m sure we’ll get a nice push from the crowd, because this is another chance to put three points on the table.

“I don’t care if it’s Arsenal, Norwich or Leicester, it’s just points to get us survival.

“We know it will be very difficult because Arsenal are so technical and talented.

“But we’ve done it before against other big teams so if we stick together, hopefully we can do it again.

“It was a good step towards survival at Norwich.

“I saw their faces at the end of the game and they were really down.

“We were down the previous week against Leicester, but we kept going and we need to maintain momentum.

“We’ve done nothing really.

“We need to make this game in hand count, either with a point or three, and really dig in.”

Sunderland showed an encouraging ability to hold their nerve amidst the anxiety of the relegation battle with the 3-0 win at Norwich, when anything less than victory would realistically have left Sam Allardyce’s men with an uphill task to remain in the Premier League.

Mannone played his part in that crucial result with several smart saves, as he helped Sunderland to only their second clean sheet of 2016.

“We had all the pressure on us, four points behind Norwich and they were at home,” added the Italian.

“They put us under pressure in the first half, but we kept calm, kept defending and then Fabio’s (Borini) penalty changed it.

“Then you knew they had to come at you and there would be spaces if we could find them.

“It’s the objective we had before going onto the pitch.

“All the manager asked for was a clean sheet and taking our chances at the other end. The two boxes are so important.

“We were really strong defensively and we took our chances when we needed to.”