With Chelsea not in action until tomorrow afternoon we have a chance to finish the day on top of the Premier League.
Granted, we still have to beat Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, a team who beat us 1-0 in this corresponding fixture last season, but to sit atop the league table after five rounds would be a great indication of the excellent start our boys have made this season.
The midweek Champions League game against Braga was completed with minimal fuss and unlike many other European outings should have no impact on the intensity of today’s performance. A number of important players were rested – Tomas Rosicky, Denilson and Emmanuel Eboue among them – while Alex Song, Marouane Chamakh and Andrey Arshavin were able to be pulled off after an hour to be given a well-earned break.
Sunderland have started the season at a relatively mild pace, picking up five points from their opening four games, but will, like Blackburn at Ewood Park, give us a good test on their home turf. Darren Bent is always good for a goal and with a clever manager like Steve Bruce at the helm they will be sure to put as much pressure as possible on our midfielders, something that Braga failed badly to do on Wednesday.
In saying that if Cesc Fabregas and Co play anywhere near as well as they did against the Portuguese side then their is no reason why Arsenal shouldn’t win this match. Our Spanish captain was mercurial on Wednesday night, scoring two goals and dominating the game with his suggestive passing, and his influence clearly rubbed off on the likes of Jack Wilshere and Chamakh, who also had excellent games.
Given Arsene Wenger’s propensity for rotation in the past couple of games it will be interesting to see the side he puts out against Sunderland.
Manuel Almunia will look to continue his bright start to the season in goals while Thomas Vermaelen’s continued absence with an achilles problem means new boys Sebastien Squillaci and Laurent Koscielny will pair up for the third game running. It remains to be seen who the manager chooses to play in the full-back positions. Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna are usually the favoured choice when it comes to away games but both featured against Braga and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least one of them make way for Kieran Gibbs or Eboue.
In midfield Alex Song’s early midweek bath suggests he is set to start with support coming from Fabregas and, in my opinion, Denilson, whose short passing game could give us the appropriate tempo to keep Sunderland’s defensive on their toes. Chamakh and Arshavin are both certainties to start meaning there is one position up for grabs on the right which could be taken by any one of Samir Nasri, Tomas Rosicky, Carlos Vela or even that man Eboue.
I have to say I’m quite excited about this game. The boys will surely want to make up for their loss in this fixture last season and take advantage of the opportunity to finish the day at the top of the league and put Chelsea under some pressure. Meanwhile the late kick-off will only add to the atmosphere in the Stadium of Light and it could well be an entertaining and intriguing game of football.
As always I’ll be watching the game at The Oscar Wilde in Berlin so if you’re around those parts be sure to drop in and have a Guinness, Club Mate or anything else that takes your fancy.
Here’s to three points and another entertaining and efficient Arsenal performance.
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