The international friendly week gives way to match-day 26 in the Premier League. That’s right, just a dozen games to go after this weekend. This is the pointed end of the season, when nerves, injuries, and suspensions conspire to produce some strange results. Three points is everything and should we escape the north-east with the spoils it is a fair bet we will gain ground on at least one of the teams above us.
We go into the game down to the bare bones in defence, but if Laurent Koscielny has passed a fitness test then we will still have a solid looking four. Thomas Vermaelen and Kieran Gibbs are definitely ruled out, so Nacho Monreal can look forward to making his away debut at the Stadium of Light.
Quite who we will see in midfield will be determined in part by who reported back from international duty with plenty left in the tank. It has to be a possibility that England’s man of the match against Brazil, Jack Wilshere, may be held in reserve on the bench. If not then I am guessing we will perm any three from Jack, Aaron Ramsey, Abou Diaby, and Santi Cazorla (edit – plus Mikel Arteta, of course. Early onset senility noticed by TaBS!). I don’t know what Tomas Rosicky has done to lose favour, but his own gastric problems in the week only add to the suspicion that he is unlikely to feature.
Theo Walcott took a couple of knocks at Wembley, so I could imagine Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain starting up top with Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski. I am guessing the Frenchman, gaining in confidence every week, will be looking forward to testing himself against Titus Bramble and John O’Shea. I should qualify that by adding that Sunderland have averaged just a goal a game against them at home this season.
Surprisingly the Mackems have struggled to score themselves. Bendtner replacement Steven Fletcher tops the charts with 10 Premiership goals for the club, but the next best tally is 4. The recent arrival of Geordie Danny Graham from Swansea is intended to increase their firepower. Let’s not forget as well that Seb Larsson usually figures large against his former employers.
Last season goals from Aaron Ramsey and impact deity (thanks @ArsenalGent) Thierry Henry gave us a come-from-behind victory in the corresponding fixture. Bergkamp the Man writes to me every week now, imploring me not to back the 2-1 to the Arsenal result, but this week’s ‘holic pound is wagered on a repeat of that scoreline. Sorry maestro! Gunners Gaming offer 36/5 against that, and an opportunity to win a great hospitality day for the Villa home match in a fortnight for every tenner you wager. As usual, please click on the banner above, thanks.
So there we are. I will be joining the hunt for the best stream tomorrow, and in the evening we are out for a family dinner to celebrate the management’s mother’s birthday. Please Arsenal, don’t give the sort of performance that will take away my appetite for some ribeye washed down by a glass or two of red.
For those making the tortuous journey, you will be delighted to see a balmy 4 degrees is forecast. My experience of Sunderland is that it is the coldest place in the Premiership regardless of the forecast. I have shivered there in August. Keep jumping up and down, clapping and singing, and you should avoid the onset of hypothermia.
Have a great one, ‘holics.
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