Sunderland vs. Arsenal: Match Preview

Julian Finney

Suddenly deficient in defense, Arsenal reassemble after the midweek international friendlies to travel to the Stadium of Light tomorrow to take on Martin O'Neill's Sunderland AFC

Arsenal vs. Stoke City
English Premier League
Kickoff: Saturday, February 9, 10AM EST
Stadium of Light, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear
TV Coverage: Fox Soccer Plus
SB Nation Sunderland Coverage: Roker Report

It's really quite simple and far from obtuse: International friendlies are the worst thing ever. I have my own feelings about international competitions, which are in a sense a different animal altogether, but I know there are many who like it and I'm not going to start a debate over those. However, I'm pretty sure we can all be united behind a strong, visceral hatred of pure, 100% exhibitions. Especially in the middle of the season and right before a crucial time for many of the clubs that help fund the national squads that participate in these dog-and-pony shows. Arsenal, of course, being one of those feeder clubs.

All season long, we've gone without some sort of positional injury crisis, so in the most Arsenal way possible it's befitting that the club is now faced with one, which so happens to be in our most scrutinized area of the pitch this season. Thomas Vermaelen is due to be out for this weekend's match with an ankle injury he suffered before the midweek friendly play time fundraiser for national FA's thing, but there's a very real possibility that Laurent Koscielny will be out as well thanks to a calf injury picked up in France's match on Wednesday. That leaves Sebastien Squillaci or Ignasi Miquel as true center backs left to partner Per Mertesacker tomorrow (who, let's not forget, did his ankle in for the rest of the season at the Stadium of Light last season). There's been talk of moving one of Bacary Sagna or Francis Coquelin to the middle, with the latter being the more preferred option in this case due to his size and familiarity with playing in the middle of the pitch.

Lastly, Gervinho is set to be back with the squad, although he may be eased back in slowly. And by "eased back in slowly", hopefully that's a long, arduous process.

As much as Arsenal fans bemoan injuries suffered at the hands of evil friendlies (quite the oxymoron there), Sunderland supporters have every right to be just as upset at them; James McClean injured his ankle while on Ireland duty a couple days ago. Lee Cattermole (knee) and Carlos Cuellar (hamstring) are questionable to feature this weekend as they recover from their injuries.

Possible Lineup:

Szezesny

Sagna - Coquelin - Mertesacker - Monreal

Arteta

Wilshere - Cazorla

Walcott - Giroud - Podolski

Prediction: Sunderland 1 - 2 Arsenal

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