Play Fantasy Wenger: Pick your Arsenal team for the trip to Sunderland

By Graham McNorthbank

One of the best soundbites to come out of the Champions League demolition of Braga in midweek was Cesc Fabregas stating that the focus of the team must now switch completely to the trip to Sunderland this weekend.

We've seen in the past that Arsenal have suffered in away games following European nights, and although our opener in the international competition was thankfully at Emirates, rather than an overseas trip, it makes the journey north for tomorrow evening's game no less tricky.

For their part, Sunderland have started the league campaing in indifferent style. While Arsenal have scored 13 and conceded 3 in our first four games, Sunderland have netted four and conceded the same number.

Their defeat at the hands of West Brom was soon brushed aside with a last minute win over Man Citeh and while the Gunners looked sublime on Wednesday as they cruised to a six goal victory, complacency has often been our problem when we've gone on the road up north, so no doubt Arsene Wenger has pointed out the banana skin that sent the Manc billionaires sliding.

The bad news for us Addicts is that nobody has emerged from the treatment room with a clean bill of health this week, meaning that Abou Diaby, Thomas Vermaelen, Nicklas Bendtner, Theo Walcott, Robin van Persie and, of course, Aaron Ramsey will all be missing from tomorrow's squad list.

However, we've already seen a willingness on Wenger's part to rotate his first team players this season, so if anyone looked slugglish in training this morning, there are options to replace them with fresh legs.

Except in central defence, that is. But given that Laurent Koscielny and Sebastien Squillaci were barely tested by the Portuguese visitors in midweek, I'd be surprised if there was any need to draft someone else in there.

The emergence of Kieran Gibbs might be the reason for Gael Clichy seemingly stepping up a gear in his game. The Frenchman was excellent on Wednesday so I'd expect him to keep his starting place tomorrow, while on the right although I prefer seeing Emmanuel Eboue at the back (purely because he can cross a ball while Bacary Sagna cannot), I reckon Le Boss will stick with our number 3.

Our Fantasy Wenger team for the Braga match was spot on, so in an effort to achieve two out of two, I'm going to stick with the same midfeld that started our last game, but bringing in Tomas Rosicky at the start in place of Jack Wilshere. That's no reflection on the teenager, as I thought his performance in Europe was the best we've seen from him yet. But knowing how Wenger protects his emerging stars, I think Jack is more likely to come on later in the game at Sunderland.

I criticised Andrey Arshavin's laziness last week, but even though I've read some harsh comments about his performance against Braga, he impressed me more. Nevertheless, it would be good to see Carlos Vela getting his name on the team sheet tomorrow to support Marouane Chamakh at the top of the park. Vela has played just 62 minutes this season but has found the net three times, so I think he's earned a starting berth.

And speaking of Chamakh, can I just say that I've been hugely impressed by our new signing and his workrate. Three goals to the good already is helping establish him as an instant hero with some, but for the others who remain unconvinced, you'll have to explain to me just what you expect of someone who is still settling in to his new surroundings?!

Anyhoo, enough of all that. A long old trip up north will give us a proper test for our title ambitions and here's the team I believe is more than capable of bringing all three points back to North London:


Sagna Koscielny Squillaci Clichy


Rosicky Fabregas Nasri Vela