Sunderland vs. Arsenal Preview: Unleash the Ozil
After two weeks without Premier League football, the world’s most watched club competition beckons as fans will be glued to their screens in anticipation of what would be a great day of football. Sunderland ended the season on a poor note and has even began the new campaign on a poorer note.
It started with a narrow loss to Fulham on the opening day which was followed by a boring draw with Southampton but when Paolo di Canio’s side succumbed to a 3-1 defeat to newbies, Crystal Palace, the bookies started making their tips as it seems as if the Black Cats aare destined for npower Championship football is they continue at this rate.
As you would expect from a volatile manager like di Canio, he has been quick to criticize his boys in the wake of their poor start to the new campaign and he would be hopeful that they kickstart their season with a good result against an Arsenal side on fire. After that embarrassing home defeat to Aston Villa, the Gunners have won five games in a row across two competitions and the acquisition of German superstar, Mesut Ozil, has brought a renewed sense of optimism at the club.
Sunderland’s record against the Gunners is quite woeful to say the least as they have won just 8 points from their last 17 Premier League games against Arsenal and the last 6 league matches staged at the Stadium Of Light have produced only 9 goals, with Fletcher scoring nine of his away from home. The last time the Black Cats recorded a win at home against the Gunners was in the 2009/10 campaign where a Darren Bent goal was more than enough to grant them three points.
With no Bent in their ranks anymore, Sunderland looks very different under di Canio but he would be hopeful that the return of star striker, Steven Fletcher, would bring about a change in their fortunes. The Scot suffered an ankle injury as far back as March and he has been working his way to full fitness since then.
Fletcher was a massive threat for Sunderland last season as he was one of Martin O’Neill’s instrumental signings, smashing 11 goals in 28 appearances with a shooting accuracy of 65% and a clear-cut chance conversion of 46%. With the likes of Emanuele Giaccherini providing wits from the flanks and Jozy Altidore providing support, the Gunners would definitely have their work cut out.
To injury news, Sunderland would be without new signing Andrea Dossena (knee), Phil Bardsley (foot) and John O’Shea (suspended) and there are doubts over the fitness of Wes Brown (knee) and Giaccherini (hammy). At Arsenal, the usual suspects, Mikel Arteta (thigh), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Lukas Podolski (hamstring) and Abou Diaby (knee) are still out but they will be joined by Tomas Rosicky (thigh) and Yaya Sanogo (back) that picked up injuries during the international break.
To team news, I would expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal but Arsene Wenger would be in a dilemma on who to bring on the bench with Lukasz Fabianski and newbie, Emiliano Viviano, ready for action. I would expect Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny to start in the heart of the defense but its heartwarming to know that Thomas Vermaelen has returned to full fitness and would have to make do with a place on the bench. I believe that he will be odds on to start in Arsenal’s Capital One clash with West Brom. With Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs fully fit, Carl Jenkinson and Nacho Monreal will have to watch the game from the dugout.
In midfield, Aaron Ramsey will be odds on to start and Gunners would be hopeful that his good form will continue but the conundrum would be on who would start alongside Ramsey today. While many would be tipping Jack Wilshere to get the nod, I would prefer Mathieu Flamini to play alongside the Welsh man-machine in the middle of the park because of the physicality of Sunderland’s game. Flamini has a better positional discipline than Wilshere and I believe that his presence in midfield would be vital for the Gunners.
At the tip of the midfield, everyone would be delighted to know that Arsenal’s new signing, Mesut Ozil, would be given his debut. He comes into the club after an illustrious career with Real Madrid and his stats are sickening to say the least.
In attack, Arsenal would hinge their hopes on their man in form, Olivier Giroud, that has scored in three matches in a row, although has never scored any of his 14 Premier League goals away from London. Can he match Jose Antonio Reyes’ record of scoring in each of the first 5 games of the season, as the latter did in 2004/05?
Theo Walcott has recovered from his injury scare against Ukraine and he would start on the right hand side while Santi Cazorla would strut his stuff on the left.
This is how the Gunners lineup would be,
Enjoy the game wherever you are.
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