The Emirates, North London

16 Oct, 2011; 18:00 Hrs IST


The wretched taste of mediocrity has choked Arsenal fans this season a�� the a�?otherwise accustomed to achieving excellencea�� teams of Arsene Wenger has sunk to a new low. The strange claims of a�?No Europe, No Worriesa�� from the Chief Executive isna��t helping the cause of the fans either. The only one thing that can put all the disorder into rest is football, good football! After another excruciatingly long gap of Internationals, the players have returned home, essentially to their club, where they earn their daily bread and butter. The next series of games for Arsenal can be a season-decider as well as a overture of things to come in the immediate future of the club.

The famous clichA� of football a�� a�?Take one game at a timea�� a�� should be imprinted into every Arsenal player as they search for some kind of form to get back to where they belong in the top tier of English Football. To embark on a season-changing journey, Arsenal would welcome Sunderland to The Emirates, who are sitting just below Arsenal in the league table. Critics with a so-called funny-bone would deem this as a relegation battle. So be it, the Gunners need to rise; they need to show character and spirit, they need to show pride in wearing the Red and White.

Team News and Tactical Brief


Lying in the 15th place in the Premiership table after seven games is probably not an ideal start by any means, but the quality in the side and the scope left for new players to completely gel with the entire team means Arsenal can get back towards the top, if not the summit. The news on the injury front is strikingly good with the return of a decent number of defenders, who were missing before the International break. Djourou, Squillaci and Koscielny, all will return for this fixture, vying for a place next to Mertesacker. If Arsene thinks that Koscielny is fully fit, he is certain to start next to the German. In the long-term absence of Bacary Sagna, Carl Jenkinson, in all probability, will take up Right Full Back responsibilities. Gibbs will be ahead of Santos in the pecking order, at least, for the time being.

Aaron Ramsey will love to demolish the ghosts of White Hart Lane with a superlative performance, the kind he has been giving for his country wearing the coveted arm-band. Alex Song and Mikel Arteta will play deep in front of the Back Four. It is too early to write off the Spaniard, he had been impressive for Everton over the years; he will need some time to understand the Arsenal system before he springs into life. Theo and Gervinho will run down the respective flanks hoping to help captain van Persie with some goals along with the expected assists. Massive injury news is the return of Abou Diaby, on his day, he can be lethal in the middle of the park. Czech Captain Thomas Rosicky, going through a tough time both physically and mentally, along with Yossi Benayoun, is expected to occupy space on the bench, along with Marouane Chamakh, who scored for his country a few days back.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-1-4-1): Szczesny(GK); Jenkinson, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Song; Arteta, Ramsey, Theo, Gervinho; van Persie


The Black Cats, like Arsenal, have had a poor start to the season; they have managed to win just one game so far. Another scorer on International duty, Nicolas Bendtner, under FIFA regulations, wona��t be able to participate against his a�?mother cluba��. In the absence of the Dane, there is a real striker problem at the club, with Fraizer Campbell and Conor Wickham, also out with injuries. In the absence of dependable goal-keeper Craig Gordon, the posts will be guarded by Mignolet. Phil Bardsley is serving his suspension while Titus Bramble wona��t see any action this Sunday due to his actions at the end of last month.

Seb Larsson, who have had his education with Arsenal earlier in his career before he left the club in 2006, is the heart-beat of the Sunderland team. The attacking midfielder is the main threat from the traveling party; he is also capable of causing some damage with his dead-ball capabilities. Former Manchester United men Oa��Shea and Wes Brown will be part of Steve Brucea��s defensive setup. Lee Catermole and Elmohamady will provide further creative outlets in the middle of the park. South Korean Ji Dong-Won, Arsenal man Parka��s International team-mate, will handle the striking responsibilities in the absence of all the leading men at the club. Former PSG man, Stephane Sessegnon is expected to play in the hole just behind the striker.

Possible Starting Line-Up (4-5-1): Mignolet(GK);A�Turner, Brown, Richardson, O’Shea; Cattermole, Larsson, Gardner, Elmohamady, Sessegnon; Dong-Won

Key Facts

  1. Defensively, this is the worst start to an Arsenal season in 47 years.
  2. Sunderland have not won a single away game to Arsenal in their last 10 visits.
  3. Arsenal have kept nine clean sheets in their last thirteen league games at the Emirates. [via OptaStats]

TheHardTackle’s Player To Watch Out For

Wojciech Szczesny


At least, Keeping aint a worry any more


EA Sports Player of the Month, Szczesny has been impeccable in front of goal for Arsenal this season, which makes it even more cruel an irony that his mistake cost Arsenal the North London Derby. With the defense changing continuously, the Pole needs to stay as sharp as ever and keep a clean sheet for the Gunners, making life even more difficult for his countryman Fabianksi, who is worried about his place in the side – both at club and country.

TheHardTackle’s Prediction

Arsenal 3 – 1 Sunderland

Arsenal are expected to romp home with all three points. There is a possibility of a few new names in the score-book with van Persie playing a little deeper than usual, as he is employed in his Oranje system. Seb Larsson and Gardener are expected to cause some problems to the Arsenal defense, but the return of Koscielny will make things a little brighter and easier for Arsenal.

TheHardTackle’s Poll Of The Week

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