Premier League 2012-13 kicks off on Saturday, August 18th. North London heavy-weights Arsenal take on Sunderland at the Emirates stadium in their first league game. A new era begins for the Gunners as their talisman and the best league player of the previous season Robin van Persie left for greener pastures. But Wenger, expecting his imminent departure, was quick to bring in replacements. Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Cazorla arrived weeks before the Dutchman’s exit and have had enough time to acclimatize with the squad.
Sunderland, who were in the danger of being relegated, finished in a respectable 13th position last season after Martin O’Neill took over the reins. However, they fared badly in pre-season, winning only one of their six friendlies.Danish striker, Nicklas Bendtner who was on loan at Sunderland last season returned to London. Louis Saha was signed earlier this week to increase the attacking options.
The two teams last met each other in the FA cup in February this year which the Black cuts won 2-0. However, they lost to Wenger’s team in both their league encounters last season.
For Arsenal, Wilshere, Frimpong and Sagna are long-term absentees. Kosciely has still not recovered from his calf strain while Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott are out with ankle and thigh injuries respectively.Young right-back Carl Jenkinson is likely start in place of Sagna while the new boys will make their league debuts.
Sunderland skipper Stephane Sessegnon is still doubtful as he hasn’t fully recovered from his ankle injury. Frenchman Louis Saha could be expected to feature for the Black cats.
Arsenal’s probable lineup ( 4-2-3-1): Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Song, Arteta, Gervinho, Cazorla, Podolski, Giroud.
Sunderland’s probable lineup (4-4-1-1): Westwood, C Gardner, O’Shea, Kilgallon, Richardson, Larsson, Cattermole, Colback, Elmohamady, McClean, Campbell.
Arsenal haven’t been beaten in their last 12 opening day fixtures and would hope to keep that record going. Moreover, Martin O’Neill has won against Arsene Wenger only once, way back in 2008 as Aston Villa manager. The Gunners also have a good home record against Sunderland- unbeaten in their last 11 encounters. Despite losing their captain, Arsenal have their best possible squad in recent times and should be able to overcome Sunderland.
Arsenal 2 Sunderland 1
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Gokul is a software professional from Chennai, India. An avid sports fan, he is a keen follower of Cricket, Football, Hockey, Tennis and Formula One. He styles his articles as razor-edge analyses of all the hot and happening events in the field of sports.