EPL Review: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Sunderland

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EPL Review: Predicting the Arsenal Starting XI vs. Sunderland
Julian Finney/Getty Images

English Premier League football returns after the thrill and intensity of international football. This ensures that Arsenal's lingering problems resurface as Arsene Wenger's men aim to relieve the overwhelming pressure currently engulfing the North London giants with a win against Sunderland at the Emirates.

The Gunners have endured a miserable start to their 2011-12 campaign, Arsenal's worst start to a season since the 1970s. Wenger's men boast just two wins in their opening seven Premier League encounters and are coming off a 2-1 loss to rivals Tottenham.

However, Arsenal will be eager to regain their confidence and respect, particularly in front of their home crowd and with fixtures on the cusp of intensifying as the winter months arise and the prospect of reaching the top four diminishes.

Wenger needs nothing short of a victory.

Fortunately, Sunderland are enduring a form demise too. The Black Cats are one spot below the Gunners in 16th and have secured just one victory since the season began.

However, Steve Bruce's men have a tendency to restrain and frustrate Arsenal with their tough, physical approach. Last season, Sunderland managed two draws against the Gunners.

Both sides have it all to play for which should ensure an exciting fixture at the Emirates. As always, Bleacher Report has all the news and reports and will predict the Arsenal Starting XI.

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Goalkeeper

Polish shot-stopper Wojciech Szczesny was named Arsenal Player of the Month in September following his bright presence in an otherwise dark month. It signifies consecutive awards for the 21-year-old, who secured the achievement in August.

Szczesny, who is yet to miss a Premier League encounter this season, is certain to start.

As usual, countryman Lukasz Fabianski will deputize from the substitutes bench but is certain to play against Bolton in the Carling Cup on the 25th. Italian youngster Vito Mannone is set to continue his run as third choice keeper whilst veteran Manuel Almunia is on loan at West Ham.

 

Defenders

Defensive leader Thomas Vermaelen is still absent following ankle surgery in September, but is set to return to the fray by the end of October. Arsenal, whose defensive line has been decimated by injury, welcome imposing Swiss Johan Djourou and Frenchman Laurent Koscielny from respective injuries.

Koscielny is likely to start ahead of Djourou and partner German giant Per Mertesacker in the central defence.

Veteran Sebastien Squillaci is also set to return to full fitness following the international break, but is unlikely to be considered for selection against Sunderland. Teenage Spaniard Igansi Miguel is set to also miss out.

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Wenger, however, is burdened by the absence of Bacary Sagna. The renowned right back suffered a broken ankle against Tottenham and is not expected to return until December. This ensures teenager Carl Jenkinson will be drafted in for the Frenchman.

Jenkinson has come under criticism from Arsenal fans following his earlier Premier League performances, but is still vastly inexperienced and shows plenty of promise.

England international Kieran Gibbs failed to feature for England during the Three Lions' qualification progress mid week and is set to start at left back. Brazilian international Andre Santos will deputize Gibbs.

 

Midfielders

The 2010-11 PFA Young Player of the Year, Jack Wilshere, is targeting March as his comeback date following ankle surgery last month, however, Wenger will be able to utilize Cameroon international Alexandre Song in the midfield as defensive reinforcements have arrived.

Song was forced to play in the defensive line following the injuries to key defenders, however, the 24-year-old can return to his preferred position as the defensive midfielder. Spanish playmaker Mikel Arteta will take on the attacking duties beside Wales captain Aaron Ramsey, who enjoyed an impressive period with the Dragons during the international break.

Wenger has a compacted midfield selection with Tomas Rosicky, Emmanuel Frimpong, Francis Coquelin, Yossi Benayoun and Abou Diaby all vying for substitute roles. However, Diaby has just returned to fitness and is unlikely to be selected whilst French youngster Francis Coquelin is also set to miss the cut.

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Forwards

Arsenal have a fully-fit forward line which will be lead by Arsenal captain and inform striker Robin van Persie. The Dutchman is the Arsenal top scorer with five. On the right wing, Theo Walcott is certain to start as the England international aims to continue his impressive form whilst Ivorian forward Gervinho will start on the left.

Teenage sensation Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has scored on both his starts for Arsenal this season and returns after netting a hat trick for the England U-21 side, is set to make the bench alongside Russian dynamo Andrei Arshavin and Moroccan sharp shooter Marouane Chamakh.

South Korean captain Chu Young-Park, who has been in sublime form for the Taegeuk Warriors, will contest for a place, but is likely to miss out alongside Japanese teenager Ryo Miyaichi.

 

Substitutes

Wenger has a selection headache with relatively full-squad fitness. However, Lukasz Fabianski will be the backup keeper with Andre Santos the emergency defender.

Teenager Emmanuel Frimpong, Czech playmaker Tomas Rosicky and Israel captain Yossi Benayoun are set to receive impact midfield roles whilst Andrei Arshavin or Alex Olxade-Chamberlain will be beside Marouane Chamakh.

 

A must-win game for Arsenal. Will the Gunners' form demise prosper or will Wenger's men finally ignite their season?

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