We're finally back to it, people. Arsenal travel to the North tomorrow, to face Sunderland at the awesomely-named Stadium of Light. I always feel like there has to be a piece of the Triforce hidden there or something, but after all this time if nobody's bothered looking, I guess I must be wrong.
Anyway, here's the situation: Sunderland haven't been good so far this year. They have one point from three games, from a draw against Southampton. They've lost to Fulham and newly-promoted Crystal Palace. It's not a great start for Paolo Di Canio and company, but they do have players. Steven Fletcher. Sebastian Larsson. Fabio Borini, on loan from Liverpool. Jozy Altidore. Sunderland are a team that should have goals in them, even if they've only scored two in three games so far this year. And even if players like Connor Wickham and Lee Cattermole are out injured.
That's an issue because as we discussed earlier, Arsenal may be unconventional at the back. Per Mertesacker is sick, and while Thomas Vermaelen may be fit enough to start on the bench, he's unlikely to be able to start with so little training under his belt. So across the back, Arsenal will probably look like:
Jenkinson - Sagna - Koscielny - Gibbs
That's not an ideal back four. But with the performances both Koscielny and Sagna have put in so far this season, there's a good chance it will hold up against the Sunderland attack. There are problems in midfield too, though, as Tomas Rosicky suffered another injury on Czech Republic duty, and Mesut Ozil is ill. Ozil will travel with the team, unlike Mertesacker, so he may still feature and in theory, could even start. That seems like a big ask, though, so it's more likely that the midfield three will look like:
Ramsey - Flamini
Again, not ideal, but it could be a whole hell of a lot worse. Despite some worries about Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott on international duty, it appears that both are healthy, so the front three should look normal:
Walcott - Giroud - Cazorla
So there we have it. Hopefully illness will fade and we will still get Ozil Day tomorrow, but even if that doesn't come to pass, Arsenal should still have enough to defeat Sunderland.
Prediction: Mesut Ozil lays hands on himself, instantly curing whatever bug he's picked up. He starts, and rains down a hellfire of assists, which poor Sunderland are powerless to combat. Dennis Bergkamp looks upon it and smiles, and it is good.
Sunderland 0-3 Arsenal