Preview: Black Cats Hoping To Stifle Özil Entrance

Warren Little

With all of the focus on the debut of £42.4m man Mesut Özil, Sunderland and Paolo Di Canio are looking to spring a surprise when Arsenal travel to the Stadium of Light tomorrow.

Sunderland Team News

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio has a number of decisions to make ahead of the visit of the Gunners, as he hopes to secure his side's first league win of the season.

Perhaps the most worrying issue is the doubt surrounding the fitness of new signing Emanuele Giaccherini. The Italian has returned from the international break with a hamstring problem - Charis Mavrias will replace him should the former Juventus man be unable to prove his fitness.

Elsewhere, John O'Shea misses out, serving a one-match ban following his red card in the Crystal Palace debacle. Di Canio will choose between Carlos Cuéllar and Valentin Roberge for the vacant centre-back spot, with the latter likely to get the nod.

In midfield, it is highly likely that loanee Ki Sung-Yueng will make his debut, likely in place of David Vaughan. Many fans will hope Cabral returns to the lineup too, but the likelihood is that Seb Larsson will (somehow) retain his central midfield berth. Up front, a first start for Steven Fletcher is probably. Despite Arsenal's strength in midfield, it would be a surprise to see Di Canio depart from his 'two frontmen' strategy, and Fletcher will likely sit just behind Jozy Altidore.

The game comes too soon for both Lee Cattermole and Wes Brown who, despite making progress with their respective injuries, will not feature.

Arsenal Team News

Arsene Wenger has a number of players sidelined but, such is the quality in his squad, his side will still form a formidable obstacle for the Black Cats. Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby are all long-term absentees; Mikel Arteta, Tomas Rosicky and Yaya Sanogo will all miss out through knocks.

Thomas Vermaelen may return from injury to make the bench but is unlikely to pressure Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker for a starting position.

As stated, all the buildup to this game has surrounding German international - and new record club signing - Mesut Özil. Özil is expected to fit straight into the team, particularly with Rosicky now injured following international duty, spearheading a midfield trio that will see Jack Wilshere assume a deeper role alongside Aaron Ramsey, who has impressed so far this term.

Predicted Lineups

Sunderland: Westwood; Celustka, Diakite, Roberge, Colback; Johnson, Ki, Larsson, Giaccherini; Fletcher, Altidore

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs; Ramsey, Wilshere, Özil; Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud

Key Matchup: Mobido Diakite Vs Olivier Giroud

While all the spotlight is shining upon a certain German international in the centre of midfield, the key battle in this game will involve the man Mesut Özil is expected to supply. Olivier Giroud struggled to get into his groove for a while during his debut season at The Emirates, however the Frenchman has well and truly hit the ground running this term, having scored in each of his side's three Premier League games so far.

Tasked with stopping Giroud will be Modibo Diakite. Despite Sunderland's porous defence, Diakite's has actually looked solid for his new club, and his strength in the air - alongside his relatively 'no-nonsense' approach - should see a fascinating tussle play out on Saturday afternoon. Giroud himself is a good header of the ball and, despite Arsenal's preference for playing through the middle, this particular aerial battle could prove crucial. Should the Gunners opted for a more ground-based attack, it will be interesting to see whether Diakite (or Valentin Roberge) have the necessary skills to combat Giroud's good footwork.

Recent Form: LWWWW

17/08/2013: Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa (Giroud 6; Benteke 22, 61 (pen), Luna 85)

21/08/2013: Fenerbache 0-3 Arsenal (Gibbs 51, Ramsey 64, Giroud 77 (pen))

24/08/2013: Fulham 1-3 Arsenal (Bent 77; Giroud 14, Podolski 41, 68)

27/08/2013: Arsenal 2-0 Fenerbache (Ramsey 25, 72)

01//09/2013: Arsenal 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur (Giroud 23)

Last Time Around: Sunderland 0-1 Arsenal, 09/02/2013

Even now, Martin O'Neill must be wondering how his Sunderland side did not score the last time these two sides met. Back in February, for 45 minutes, Arsenal were cruising along. The visitors hadn't created much but, in truth, they hadn't really had to - the one moment of footballing quality in the opening half carved Sunderland wide open, and Santi Cazorla was on hand to expertly place his effort through a maze of legs and nestle it in the corner of the net.

Sunderland looked to be going down without a whimper until Carl Jenkinson saw a second yellow card for scything down Stephane Sessegnon. From there, the hosts piled the pressure on. In the Arsenal goal, Wojciech Szczesny was in inspired form, keeping out Sessegnon, Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher in quick succession. The Black Cats were left to rue further missed chances from Fletcher and Titus Bramble, as the Gunners escaped with a hard-fought 1-0 victory, and O'Neill's side lurched into a downward spiral that would ultimately cost the Ulsterman his job.

The Ref: Martin Atkinson

Martin Atkinson refereed Sunderland three times last season, all at the Stadium of Light, with the Black Cats not managing a victory under his supervision. Atkinson oversaw the early season 1-1 home draws with Liverpool and Newcastle United, before then taking charge of the late-2012 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur. Atkinson's dismissal of Cheik Tiote in last season's Wear-Tyne derby was the only red card he showed in 38 competitive games.

Arsenal, meanwhile, were last overseen by the 42-year-old from Bradford in February's 2-1 home defeat of Aston Villa. Atkinson was also referee for the Gunners' two meetings with Chelsea in the Premier League last season, both of which ended in 1-2 defeats for Arsene Wenger's men.

What The Managers Said

Paolo Di Canio

[Özil] is another player that [Arsenal] have added to a very good squad. They have many, many good players. He is another one we have to be wary of.

They have a good squad, they play good football. They have quality all over the field.

We have to play as a team. Strong, a unit. We need to try to damage them in the ways that we can - but every [game] is difficult, especially if you have one point after three games.

Even if we had seven points and were playing at home against, say, Crystal Palace, it is still difficult, every game is.

You may ask the question: 'Do you feel pressure?' I don't feel pressure. I never feel pressure.

After three games, no, because I know why we have one point.

Arsene Wenger

[The comparison between Mesut Özil and Dennis Bergkamp] is comparable because they are similar players in same department and they are big names who come from big teams.

You must say as well that Özil was not perceived as being a failure at Real Madrid, he was perceived by the whole world as being a huge success at Real Madrid so of course the noise made by a signature like that is big.

They were questioning my desire to spend money, maybe the ambition as well, because today the ambition is linked with the amount of money you spend.

We are very ambitious, we went through a few years where we had less resources and there is no shame to say that because we have built a new stadium. Now we are back with the ambition as big as everybody else, if not bigger.

[Thomas] Vermaelen is back in full training.He is very close to being available and he could be in the squad on Saturday. It is more likely to be Wednesday, but there is a possibility he might still travel to Sunderland.

Sanogo has a back problem. He came back from the first game of the France Under-21s with it. He is certainly out for Saturday. Rosicky is out with a hamstring [issue].

Roker Report Predicts

It would be typical of Arsenal to lose this game. Riding on the crest of a wave, with fans believing the signing of Özil to be an indicator of better fortunes ahead, the Gunners of the past decade or so typically tend to let their populace down just as they begin to build their hopes up.

Yet, a Sunderland victory - you sense - wouldn't quite be 'typical Sunderland.' For all the talk of a "revolution" this summer, the fact remains that any vast change at SR5 is going to take time to come to fruition; as shown, brutally, in the opening three games of this term. Though the return of Steven Fletcher gives great cause for optimism, it is hard not to see the visitors having too much for Di Canio's men tomorrow.

Some of Arsene Wenger's quotes were taken from www.arsenal.com. The tactics board used in this article was produced via http://sharemytactics.com.

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