PREVIEW: Sunderland

Well it’s that time of the year again, the time when the talking stops and the action commences. All the pronouncements of oncoming club domination over pub tables dripping with lagers and ales, ciders and jams will be put to the test. It’s been a typically volatile summer for The Arsenal, the usual highs and lows complementing each other beautifully like the ups and downs of the hilly countryside, until finally we roll into the congested station and the excitement begins.
I’ll not rattle on with Van Pur$ie jargon as I’m sure you’ve read and heard enough over the last day or so to make your eyes and ears bleed (if you listened to his words about how signing for United makes him feel like a little boy I’m sure you’d have smelt enough bullshit to make you nasal exits bleed too!). One thing I will say is that there’s anger, betrayal, and disappointment in the minds of all gooners, yet over shadowing these emotions is a wonderfully British adage…”keep calm and carry on”. As a fan base, we seem to have collectively adopted to stance that many mid teenagers do when they first visit Amsterdam, basically “fuck that Dutch cunt”.
We move onwards and upwards, in that order, and look forward to welcoming him back to The Emirates in late November. 
Our squad has bounded forward in leaps over the last couple of months, and we’re a piece or two away from a serious challenge to the reign of Manchester. We’ve added firepower, we’ve added midfield creativity, and hopefully with the know-how of Bould we can bring in some defensive team stability. We have the parts to create a solid defensive unit, I’m sure Steve will bring the manual to build our structure. 

Tomorrow sees us face Sunderland in our first game of the season, and its quite a stiff test to open with. We rarely find it easy against The Black Cats, yet on our home turf we have a significant advantage, namely that we find it easier to play our passing game on a football field than a recently ploughed field. Wenger managed to squeeze in a comment or two about Sunderland in a press conference dominated by a certain serpentine usurper, and he mentioned their potency on the counter attack. We’ve been caught by them before in this manner, and hopefully this time our defenders ankles won’t rupture during their fast break. The lack of littered farming utensils left on The Emirates field ought to help prevent this.

However, on a serious note we did look susceptible to a swift counter break during pre season, so it’s certainly an area we will have to concentrate heavily on. I have far more confidence in us remaining organised at the back with Mertesacker present, regardless of how superb Koscielny and Vermaelen are individually. He brings a level of concentration and discipline that I think we can often lack with Verm and Kos, as they’re both fonder of a wander over yonder half way line than our gangly German is. We haven’t dropped any points to Sunderland in the league for the last two seasons and our home record had been perfect against them since they got promoted, so more of the same will be required tomorrow. Wenger has placed heavy emphasis on the need for a positve start to this campaign, and even though we lost our captain on the eve of kickoff, it doesn’t quite feel the same as last year; we were in control of the sale, and we have adequately replacements ready to shine.
It wouldn’t feel like the start of the campaign unless we were carrying a barrow full of injuries, and players haven’t disappointed in this regard. Oxlaide and Wilsher will not be available for selection, along with Rosicky and Sagna and of course Koscielny.
Therefore I would pick the following team:
Szcz, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos, Song, Arteta, Cazorla, Walcott, Gervinho, Podolski.
Jenkinson is a young player who has red running through his veins (!) being an Arsenal lad, but I think he has a lot to prove with Sagna unavailable. While his crossing is probably the best at the club, and he has a fair portion of pace, his positioning can be rather poor so he’ll need to be heavily marshalled by Merts and Verm. While Santos is clearly an attacking midfielder masquerading as a left back, he can make a tackle or two and his strides forward can be very productive. I’d start Gervinho based on his good work in preseason and his premier league experience, and tomorrow will be a good opportunity to show some “end product”. Song appears to be on his way out of the club, yet while he’s here we may as well make use of him.
Thanks a bunch for reading, plenty more to follow on the site.


Devon Halls

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