In the aftermath of Arsenal’s painful defeat to Bayern Munich, Arsene Wenger has revealed that he will make changes to his side for the visit of Sunderland to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
Arsenal had the Europeans rattled early on before a red card to Wojciech Szczesny left them trying desperately to survive for more than 45 minutes with 10 men against a side equipped better than any other to exploit a numerical advantage. While their hopes of reaching the Champions League quarterfinals were hit with a 2-0 defeat, there are also sure to be some tired legs when Arsenal return to Premier League action less than 72 hours later.
“There will be changes -- that's for sure,” he said at Friday’s pre-match press conference, according to Arsenal’s official website. “How many I don't know yet. I have to decide today after training and tonight.”
One definite change to the starting lineup will be the exclusion of Kieran Gibbs, who will miss out with a buttock injury that forced him to come off against Bayern Munich in the first half. Mikel Arteta is also likely to return to the lineup having missed the Champions League encounter through suspension.
Arguably the leading candidate for a rest is Mesut Ozil. Arsenal’s record signing has looked jaded in recent weeks and struggled with his heavy defensive workload against the Bavarians after his side went down to 10 men. Having missed an early penalty, there is also an argument that Ozil is also in danger of being psychologically burned out.
It was against Sunderland in September that Ozil made his debut for the Gunners and made an instant impact. Yet, some of that sparkle has noticeably faded of late. With Arsenal having a rare midweek off next week, resting Ozil against Sunderland would give the German a full 10 days to recharge.
Wenger’s most eye-catching selection on Wednesday was the inclusion of Yaya Sanogo for only his second start for the club, in preference to Olivier Giroud. While Giroud has also looked overworked of late, a high-profile personal issue may also have been a factor in his place on the bench. Sanogo showed promise in the early stages, but is still clearly rough around the edges. And Wenger has explained that there is a good chance that Giroud will return to the lineup on Saturday.
“It is likely Giroud will be involved tomorrow," he said, according to The Independent. "Resting him was part of a refreshment plan. He's a strong guy. We all have weaknesses and strengths, some of us use work to forget our problems. He's one who will.”
Other than Gibbs, the only other players definitely ruled out for Arsenal are Aaron Ramsey, Kim Kallstrom, Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby.
Sunderland have no new injury worries since their 1-0 victory over Southampton last Saturday in the FA Cup fifth round. Manager Gus Poyet will again be without goalkeeper Keiren Westwood, with former Arsenal man Vito Mannone set to come back between the sticks in place of January signing Oscar Ustari. Striker Steven Fletcher (Achilles) and defender Carlos Cuellar (hip) may return, but Wes Brown is again suspended.
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M: Arteta, Flamini
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