While the world continues to argue over Thierry Henry’s ball we, quite wonderfully, have an Arsenal game to look forward to.
The International Break finished up on Wednesday night and since then the boys have been returning home from various parts of the world to prepare for tomorrow afternoon’s tricky tie away to Sunderland.
Sitting in 8th place and with a win over Liverpool and a 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford under their belt, Sunderland will provide a stern test for an Arsenal team that will be without a host of first team players. Robin van Persie is the highest profile absentee after damaging his ankle playing for Holland midweek and heads a lengthy list that includes Nicklas Bendtner, Gael Clichy, Abou Diaby, Kieran Gibbs, Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and long-term casualty Johan Djourou.
The good news is that Denilson (who is fit again after nine weeks out), Carlos Vela, Lukasz Fabianski and Armand Traore are all available. I don’t expect any of them to start against Sunderland but it is nice to have them back nonetheless, particularly Denilson and Vela who may be called upon regularly in the next month or two.
It’s always difficult to predict a starting team after an international break but on the two previous occasions that they have occurred this season Arsene Wenger has favoured playing a fresher team over his absolute best players. Despite the need for our best attackers on the pitch I’d be somewhat surprised to see Andrey Arshavin start given the physical and emotional blow he has taken captaining Russia over the past week. Likewise Emmanuel Eboue may be favoured over Bacary Sagna after the Frenchman’s grueling week although that change could rule out the possibility of the Ivorian stepping in for Gibbs at left back.
All things considered I suggest the manager will opt for a team consisting of Manuel Almunia in goals, William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen in the centre of defence and Sagna and Eboue starting on the right and left respectively. The midfield will likely consist of Alex Song, Cesc Fabregas and Aaron Ramsey while Eduardo should start as the main striker with support on the wings from Samir Nasri and Tomas Rosicky. Arshavin may well start, of course, but I just have a feeling the manager might give him something of a rest after a tough week.
As you can see above we certainly have a team capable of beating Sunderland away and I am expecting us to do so to keep the pressure on Chelsea at the top. Three points at the Stadium of Light would be a brilliant outcome and certainly won’t come easy but after a tiring couple of weeks for all involved it would provide the ideal warm-up for what will be a spectacular game at the Emirates a week later. One game at a time though.
My word it’s good to have Arsenal back. Let’s hope they don’t let us down
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