It's time to preview the game down at Arsenal this weekend. Arsenal away is a strange one for me, every time head to The Emirates.
You see, it's that Arsenal are one of them teams. They have the occasional off-day and are susceptible to over-playing themselves to defeat, or indeed a draw. Last year we managed to escape with a 0-0, whilst other teams went there and won. However, they're also a team which when in form, can absolutely destroy you.
Sadly, we're not doing particularly well, and to give us any chance of a point or three we need 'Bad Arsenal' to turn up.
Fingers crossed everyone. Let's get down to some previewing...
Sunderland Team News
Well everyone's returned from International duty ok, which is a positive for us, however the major negative is that Nicklas Bendtner can't play against his full-time employers, so that's the one enforced change whilst there could well be a few tactical tinkering's elsewhere on the pitch.
Across the back, we should well see some normality. Simon Mignolet, who had a superb game at The Emirates last season, will sit behind a defence of Kieran Richardson, Michael Turner, Wes Brown & John O'Shea. Phil Bardsley serves the final game of his suspension, whilst Titus Bramble has erm... more pressing concerns. Louis Laing could warm the bench in the absence of those two.
Now in midfield and attack, I see Bruce returning to his tried and tested (sic) 4-4-1-1 formation, but much flatter as he looks to set us up not to concede at all costs.
Ahmed Elmohamady comes off a good game against West Bromwich Albion to start on the right hand side of midfield, and Sebastian Larsson who did very well over the international break will come in to the left of midfield. In the middle, I'm hoping that David Vaughan has shown enough to start over Lee Cattermole, with either one of them partnering Craig Gardner. Let's hope it's Vaughan. If the Cattermole which played (in the loosest sense of the term) against West Brom turns up, we're gonna be screwed as he simply won't be able to cope with Arsenal's fluid passing.
The only other opportunity would be to bring Jack Colback to the left of midfield, occasionally tucking in when Sess drops wide, but I think Bruce will go with the hot-hand which is Elmohamady.
Stephane Sessegnon should be sitting in the hole, however I'm sure as we look to come away with a draw he'll be forced out wide more often than not, leaving lone striker Ji Dong-Won to do all the work. Yes, I think Ji will get the nod over Connor Wickham who pulled out of the U21 squad through injury, and the fact Bruce tends to bring on Ji first from the bench suggests he's more fancied.
Personally, I'd like to see us go with both and Sessegnon wide, but it's not my call. Anyone who's watch Ji will know he's not a target man, and if anything is more akin to Sessegnon, bringing others into play and dropping deep than he is Bendtner who will run the channels and hassle defenders.
Arsenal Team News
Somewhat good news for us is that Arsenal have a few injury problems. Bacary Sagna, Thomas Vermaelen & Jack Wilshere are long-term absentees, whilst goalkeeper Szczesny is touch and go following a minor back ailment. It's likely the Polish keeper (which is what he'll be called from here on out) will be ready to start against us however.
We've a few battles to win on Sunday to have any chance of victory, and one of the main ones will be keeping Stephane Sessegnon high up front and trying to out fox the cumbersome Per Mertesacker.
Sadly however, Arsenal have more area's where they can bother us than the other way round. I've not been overly impressed with Andre Santos as yet, but his pace could absolutely rape John O'Shea, and the Brazilian could well be a thorn in our side.
Meanwhile, on paper at least, Robin Van Persie versus Michael Turner doesn't look promising, nor does Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain against Kieran Richardson.
We've also dried a high-pressing game when not in possession, and this will need to be in full effect on Sunday too to stop Aaron Ramsey & Mikel Arteta. Both of whom are great players when given time. Let's not give them time.
This game looks like it's going to be a right bucket of fun doesn't it?
SAFC: Mignolet; Richardson, Turner, Brown, O'Shea; Larsson, Cattermole, Gardner, Elmohamady, Sessegnon, Dong-Won
Arsenal: Szczesny, Santos, Koscielney, Mertesacker, Coquelin; Song, Arteta; Walcott, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Van Persie
We don't have a particularly stellar record at The Emirates, or indeed Highbury before it, but one game which sticks long in my memory is an FA Cup draw at Highbury. Somehow a team containing Gareth Hall, Lionel Perez and a forward line of John Mullin, Mickey Bridges & David Kelly escpaed with a 1-1 draw, courtesy of Michael Gray's strike. Perhaps the game is more findly remembered however for the celebration. The nose slapping/big-nose-Bally celebration. Tremendous scenes.
Get Rich Quick
Mr David Boyle ably filled in whilst I was away last week, however he didn't have much luck. In fact it was so bad, he at first picked a player who wasn't even playing. Nice work. So as we look to get back to winning ways this week. That said I'm not overly confident about a result, so I'm going for a repeat of last year, and a 0-0 which comes in at 10/1. Actually you'll want to back No Goalscorer at the same price. My bad. That's what we're going for, and is the most positive I can feel about things right now. These odds are available at BetFred.
Song For Whoever
Song for whoever time, where you get involved with the preview and give us a topical tune or something at least half-way relevant to the game in one way or another. Perhaps it gets you in the mood, perhaps there's a poignant lyric. Whatever, just send them to @RokerReport on Twitter on a regular basis for your time in the spotlight.
This week's song choice comes from Kevin Gibson on Twitter, also known as @KevsGreat if you want to give him a follow, and he's suggested this beaut, it's Justice - "Stress"
A cracking choice from one of my favourite artists, so it had to be chosen. Certainly a topical title, and a beat that matches that of my heart during 90% of Sunderland matches. Thanks Kev, you certainly are great.
Well, as outlined above, I'm not exactly sticking my neck out when I suggest this is a very tough game. One which you can almost write off in all honesty as I don't expect us to get much, if anything. Yes readers, it's got to the point where I'm going to make my first negative prediction of the season (in the hope I'm wrong as per usual) and go for an unspectacular 2-0 defeat. With the Sky cameras on us, I just hope we put in a performance we can be proud of, but again this might be asking too much.
I'll keep the faith, and hope you do to. This is just one of them games.