AFTER TWO disappointing results on the bounce, Sunderland take on Arsene Wenger`s straggling Arsenal at the Emirates.
It`s been a well-publicised struggle for the Gunners so far this season, doubtless hampered by the summer losses` of Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Cesc Fabregas. Throw in the numerous last-ditch additions and it`s a recipe for a hard-luck story.
The 8-2 defeat at Manchester United proved something of a watershed moment and prompted Wenger into a busy final couple of days trading with no less than five signings – Park Chu Young, Andre Santos, Mikel Arteta, Per Mertesacker and Yossi Benayoun. As Steve Bruce and Sunderland know, new players don`t bed in overnight and the Gunners boss is quickly finding out that even a change from his usual conservative spending trend doesn`t guarantee results.
Currently situated in 15th with seven points from as many games, the Gunners have at least notched up a couple of wins at home but the performances have been far from classic. A hard-fought 1-0 win against newly-promoted Swansea City provided their first home win of the season before a 3-0 win over struggling Bolton went someway towards kick-starting the season.
What has let the Gunners down though is the amplification of their usual soft underbelly. Laughable rearguard action handed Blackburn Rovers a win against the North Londoner`s at Ewood Park whilst the humiliating Old Trafford defeat typified their problems.
Despite the additions made late in August youngsters such as Carl Jenkinson, Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong have been blooded even sooner then would usually be expected. Granted Coquelin didn`t look out of his dept against Spurs in the North London derby but if Fabregas and Nasri were still at the club he wouldn`t be getting a look in.
Furthermore, the continued failure of Andrei Arshavin to capture anything remotely like the form he showed in his first six months in England is as puzzling as it is frustrating. Maroune Chamakh continues to flatter to deceive. There`s also Thomas Rosicky kicking about some, a man who`s arguably never found any sort of form at the club.
There is however some light at the end of the tunnel for Wenger who should welcome back central defensive trio Sebastian Squillaci, Laurent Koscielny and Johannes Djourou.
Sunderland will be without Danish forward Nicklas Bendtner who is of course on loan from the Gunners currently. Either Connor Wickham or Ji Don Won who impressed for South Korea during the international break should deputise.
Arsenal: Sczcezney; Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Song, Diaby; Walcott, Arteta, Gervinho; Van Persie (c).
Sunderland: Mignolet; O`Shea, Turner, Brown, Richardson; Larsson, Gardner, Cattermole, Vaughan; Sessesgnon; Wickham.