Sunderland Preview: Weary Side Must Lift Themselves To Victory
Sunderland arrive at The Emirates this afternoon knowing that their first win in the league at Arsenal since 1983 will take them above their hosts in the table. Ordinarily that would be a sign that things are going extremely well on Wearside; now it means Arsenal are in a tailspin. Arsenal meanwhile will be looking for the win that takes them into the top half of the table.
Wenger and his men can look forward to this afternoon though. 2011-12 might not have been the classic season that we all hoped for when the last finished but they have yet to concede a goal in the Premier League fixture directly following international football. Positives can be found anywhere if you look hard enough.
Per Mertesacker is being hailed as a defensive saviour by his manager, not in being the reason why goals will not be leaked so heavily but because he has leadership skills. In doing so, Wenger highlighted his weakness that brings out his strength. According to the manager, the German is making up for his lack of pace with his reading of the game; an excess of seventy international caps suggests that there is a lot more truth in that than Mertesacker’s critics want you to believe.
Whether he will live up to the comparisons with Tony Adams that the headline writers want you to think Wenger made – it was the tiniest comparison, not a full-blown statement of intent – is another matter. It would help if he had a consistent defensive partner alongside him. This afternoon it looks like Laurent Koscielny will resume his duties but with Thomas Vermaelen already back on the training pitch, Wenger appears to be reaching a point where he must confront his demons; who will be the first choice pairing? We presume that it will be the longest surnamed duo but that is not necessarily the case. Much will depend on the communication issue being solved and to some extent Vermaelen curbing his spirit of adventure. Mertesacker does not have the pace to cover the Belgian with forays forward and to be honest, I am not sure that buccaneering style from centre back is appropriate this season. Form, it seems, may yet be the deciding factor.
Whatever that outcome, it will be a good three months before Wenger is able to field his first choice back four. Bacary Sagna is apparently feeling low mentally following his distressing injury at White Hart Lane. The responsibility of filling his shoes falls to Carl Jenkinson in the short-term at least. If as many expect, the youngster will be exposed by the callowness of his youth, Laurent Koscielny rather than Coquelin seems to be the next option, at once solving the centre back issue. For me it is a sign of the callowness of some of the support that Jenkinson is almost having failure wished upon him so that the egotistical “I told you so” can be uttered. How low have Arsenal sunk?
Sunderland – and Arsenal, for that matter – will be deprived of seeing Nicklas Bendtner return to The Emirates. The Premier League rule that loan signings cannot play against their parent club is ludicrous. Apparently the fear that someone may not try as hard is greater than the knowledge that most loanees have a point to prove and would therefore play out of their skin to prove it. Utterly ridiculous. Instead it seems Conor Wickham will get the chance to show if Wenger was right to rate him so highly and wrong to let Sunderland nip in with a not insignificant £10m bid.
Forwards are an issue at Arsenal. Despite scoring on international duty, Marouane Chamakh is being linked with a move away from Arsenal. Wenger did not deny this one as he did the Fabianski rumour, giving it air of believability. In that instant, Bendtner can consider himself unlucky to have been deemed surplus to requirements. Perhaps this season away will prove that he should lead the line with van Persie dropping slightly further back as Dennis Bergkamp recently suggested. More likely than that would be Theo Walcott moving to the centre, utilising his pace to the quick-thinking brain of van Persie’s skills: Wright and Bergkamp of this decade anyone?
It would help to accommodate the clamour of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s inclusion in the starting line-up. I can see that happening this afternoon if Wenger decides to rotate ahead of the clash with Marseille but not for any other reason. The youngster is in good form, that is undeniable but the manager is well aware of the dangers of overplaying youth and AOC may well have to make do with a run in the Carling Cup side with occasional Premier and Champions Leagues outings.
For this afternoon, I expect the side to be:
Szczesny; Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Song, Ramsey, Arteta; Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho
Options are there for Wenger with Benayoun to replace either of the wide players, likewise Arshavin. Those choices become more difficult in coming weeks as Diaby and Djourou become available – the latter may step into the fray instead of Koscielny this afternoon if the Frenchman has had any reaction to his injury – which is how it should be at a club of Arsenal’s stature. At least two players for every position; if they are at Arsenal it is up to them to show whether or not they are good enough to be here. Let’s be honest, if a player is not motivated at Arsenal, they will not be motivated anywhere and Arsene would be well advised to spend some of the £50m that is burning a hole in the media’s pocket.
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.
Posted on October 16, 2011, in Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Premiership, Soccer and tagged Arsenal, Football, Premier League, Soccer, Sunderland, Transfer Gossip. Bookmark the permalink. 473 Comments.