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In what is likely to be an intriguing game this weekend, Arsenal travel to the Stadium of Light looking for only their third league win of the season.
Sunderland themselves will be hoping to try and put right what happened last weekend when they shipped eight to Southampton and it doesn’t bode well for a result either way that both sides are draw specialists this season, the only two teams in the division to have drawn five of their first eleven matches.
So, how are Arsenal likely to line up?
Well, Wojciech Szczesny will return to the side after his midweek suspension meaning that Emi Martinez will take his spot on the bench.
In front of the keeper, things are likely to stay as they were in Belgium as it is reported that Arsene Wenger is set to rest Laurent Koscielny for the next month in order to help him try and recover from his Achilles problem. This means a back four of Calum Chambers, Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal and Kieran Gibbs. Of course, Hector Bellerin could come in to the side, allowing Chambers to move to centre-back but it seems likely the manager will persist with Monreal playing there.
In midfield I expect to see Mikel Arteta come in for Mathieu Flamini who is just one of a number of Arsenal players struggling for form at present. I had expected him to drop out on Wednesday night, but unless there are still questions over Arteta’s fitness, he should start on Saturday.
It’s hard to predict what midfield Wenger will opt for. Will he bring Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain back into the side at the expense of someone else? Santi Cazorla is likely to keep his place given Jack Wilshere seems set to miss out through injury, freeing up a spot for the Ox without needing to rejig too much. Aaron Ramsey will no doubt remain in the starting line-up.
Alexis Sanchez and Danny Welbeck should complete the starting line-up assuming the knock Danny Welbeck seemed to pick up on Wednesday isn’t anything to worry about. If it is, Sanchez could be moved centrally with Lukas Podolski taking up a place on the wing, but judging by comments made by Arsene Wenger at his pre-Sunderland press conference, Welbeck should be ok to start. I thought we might even get to see Theo Walcott on the bench, but it seems he’s slated to play for the under-21’s again this weekend.
As much as the three points at stake, Arsenal will want to try and pull a performance out of somewhere. Anything less than full concentration and application at the weekend could see things go sour very quickly and with no midweek match coming up, that’s an awful lot of time to have to sit with yet another failure to beat a so-called ‘smaller’ team.
Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I, for one, couldn’t stand the moaning.