After a week of injury talk, Arsenal fans will be happy to see the (fit) players back on the pitch on Saturday afternoon.
As long as they win.
After three Premier League games without a win in November, the month of December must go more smoothly for Arsenal to continue a title challenge. The issue is, they must do it despite an injury meltdown. This isn’t the place for that, so I’ll touch on the team news as per usual and leave it at that.
Scans appear to have confirmed that Santi Cazorla will be out for a few months and Alexis Sánchez for a few weeks. However, Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are back, and Laurent Koscielny may have recovered enough from the hip injury suffered at Carrow Road to feature on Saturday.
He isn’t the only one – Kieran Gibbs is back and Theo Walcott also in contention after over four weeks out with a pulled calf.
Oxlade-Chamberlain hasn’t started in over four weeks but should play on the right wing, with Aaron Ramsey moving inside to partner Mathieu Flamini.
Long-term absentees remain, well, absent. Perennially injured captain is also out.
Possible XI: Čech; Bellerín, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal; Flamini, Ramsey; Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Campbell; Giroud.
Dick Advocaat departed after helping Sunderland pick up just three points from their opening eight games of the season, but they have won three of the six matches under Sam Allardyce.
The experienced Premier League boss is clearly steering a steadier ship than his Dutch predecessor, but the defensive frailties remained in a 6-2 defeat to Everton at the start of November. However, they’ve kept clean sheets in their last two games and only conceded once to Southampton, so maybe they’ve sorted it out.
Implementing a back three (or five), they’ve relied on the pace of Jermaine Defoe on the break but he’s out of the weekend’s game, as is former Arsenal man Seb Larsson. However, the back three (or five) is expected to remain as Allardyce looks for a third consecutive clean sheet.
Possible XI: Pantilimon; Jones, Coates, O’Shea, Kaboul, Aanholt; Toivonen, Cattermole, M’Vila; Watmore; Fletcher.
After three games without a win, Arsenal need to change things against Sunderland. Two points behind Manchester City is not disaster, but two points from three games doesn’t look good and the title race – for now – lays in the hands of a depleted squad.
In order to end our winless run, we’ll have to put a stop to Sunderland’s streak (if you can call it that) of two consecutive victories.
Despite the injuries, we should have more than enough to do that.