What happened last season
Thierry Henry turned back time with that last minute winner from an Andrey Arshavin cross. Neither will be involved tonight. The former is not signed by us for the 3rd time in his career and the latter has completely lost the faith of the manager. What happened in the FA Cup tie in the same venue was less memorable. Per Mertesacker lost his footing and injured himself as James McClean sent us packing out of the competition.
Who will not be on the pitch or bench
Francis Coquelin and Kieran Gibbs are both still out while Gervinho has been given extra leave. Thomas Vermaelen and Laurent Koscielny will both go through late fitness test to determine their involvement. As for Sunderland, Lee Cattermole and Carlos Cuellar will go through the same as our centre backs.
Is there a cause for concern
The centre of defence is a big one. If neither Vermaelen or Koscielny makes it, Sebastien Squillaci stands to benefit. If partnered with Per Mertesacker, that might go down as the slowest pairing in the league. Lots of noise stating Ignasi Miquel’s participation over that of Squillaci but I’m not sure Arsene Wenger will share the same train of thought. Jack Wilshere has played a lot of games and got another 90 minutes in midweek for England, time will come when he should be rested but that could very well happen when Blackburn visits the Grove next week. We will have to call upon him once again in this tough away fixture.
Steven Fletcher versus Mertesacker. For all his height, Mertesacker does not impose himself strong enough in those aerial challenges and sometimes he gets dominated in that part of the game. Something which Fletcher could do and his flick-on to the forward runs of Stephanne Sessegnon and Seb Larsson. What Adam Johnson could deliver from wide positions will also make covering Fletcher all the more important.
Theo Walcott versus Danny Rose. The Tottenham loanee gets more praise than I could ever give out for such a limited talent. His defending is suspect and one fluke goal in a North London Derby once, Rose has rarely produce any performance to lift fans off their chairs. Walcott will have to fully put Rose on his back foot and find the right pass to Olivier Giroud or find the right runs against a bewildered Rose.
What’s at stake for us
We can’t afford to drop points at the Stadium of Light. Partly because of the tough fight on our hands for the Champions League spot and partly because of Sunderland. While they may have improve of late, Martin O’Neill’s Sunderland has been dire and we should really take full advantage of it. Our attacking prowess does give us options and hopefully we’ll take all 3 points back from the North.
Now that Andre Santos has gone back to his home country, I’ll leave you with this thought. Should Ignacio Monreal get injured tonight……….
Up The Arsenal.