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Written by Mean Lean on Saturday, 09 February 2013 11:10

Sunderland away after the international break when we have picked up an injury or two is not ideal. Watch out for that slippery looking banana that is sat invitingly on the Sunderland pitch I say.

You just know that the team will need to show more than just playing good football to get through this with the three points. You may recall last season when the pitch looked more like a plough field than a Premier League pitch. Wasn't there a 'who can have a worst pitch competition' between Sunderland and AC Milan in the same week? Per Mertesacker suffered with a nasty ankle injury because of that same very pitch.

In truth I have no idea what state the pitch is in today but I doubt that they will go out of their way to make the playing field as level and well groomed as they could do. Why would they? The idea would be to cut down Arsenal's footballing advantage and turn the game into a scrap and many Martin O'Neil teams would feel that they have a good chance in winning a scrap with those soft fancy dans from the south. You know how the narrative goes.

Thomas Vermaelen is out with an ankle injury but luckily Laurent Koscielny came through training yesterday without any problems so he should be ready to play alongside Per Mertesacker, a partnership that personally I think has been our best this season.

Monreal will have to continue to hit the ground running today in what is likely to be a different type of test that he is used to in Spain. Playing at home against Stoke with your home fans behind you and the best surface in the Premier League is one thing, an away ground and pitch like Sunderland will be a different ball game altogether me thinks.

Jack Wilshere played 90 minutes for England in midweek and the hype (deservedly so in parts) has gone through the roof in the last few days so I wouldn't at all be surprised if Arsene was to plonk him on the bench for this one to take him out of the spotlight and more importantly keep him as far away from zones and the colour red.

We have the same midfield trio available that started the season so well, so it is not as if we lack quality in that area, although you always miss Wilshere's drive and tenacity when he isn't on the pitch. Not a bad second half substitute to have in your locker though.

Mean Lean's Predicted Line Up


Abou Diaby, like Donkey Kong needs a few strides before he reaches his top speed and I think that is due anytime now, so I am hoping for a big Liverpoolesque performance from him this afternoon. This is the type of fixture where we need a strong battling and driving performance from a player in midfield and hopefully today is that day.

I really do not feel good about this type of fixture, I certainly do not envisage us leading 3-0 with 15 minutes to play, allowing the manager to rest tired legs and allowing the fans to sit back in our chairs, watching us play keep ball. Do you like my bit of reverse psychology to the footballing gods?

Last weeks game with sheeet kickers Stoke ended in a late deflected winner to seal the points and while I will probably not enjoy the game today, I will be more than happy with a repeat of last weeks score.

I am banking on an away win today and www.coral.co.uk are doing some great bets, well worth a look.

However you do it today Arsenal, three points please darling. Cheers.

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