Football: Arsenal in search of Sunderland boost

LONDON - Arsenal will seek to cement their fragile confidence when they travel to Sunderland in the Premier League on Saturday.

Arsene Wenger's side clinched only their fifth victory in 14 games when two goals in the final two minutes secured a 2-1 Champions League win at Anderlecht on Wednesday.

The Gunners will attempt to build on that when they go in search of their first Premier League win in four games at the Stadium of Light.

North London club Arsenal travel to Tyneside seventh in the table, 11 points behind Premier League leaders Chelsea with less than a quarter of the season gone.

The stuttering start, combined with a lengthy injury list, has once again thrown focus on Arsenal manager Wenger's failure to bring in a central defender and a holding midfielder during the last transfer window.

But Gunners centre-back Per Mertesacker believes the cure to the side's difficulties can be found within the current squad and conceded the team had under-achieved so far this season.

"Everyone knows that it was a difficult start for us and our confidence is not that much how we wanted it," Mertesacker said.

"The character is good, the mentality is good but football-wise, we lack a few things. Our passing game is not as efficient as last year (season).

"We are not at our best. We have to admit that, be honest with ourselves and train harder." Mertesacker added he had found it hard to lift himself again after experiencing the exhilaration of winning the World Cup with Germany in July.

"For me, it is difficult at the moment because that was really a long season last year and to come back from that World Cup and get the motivation back," he said.

"I am nearly back but you can feel there is something missing." Theo Walcott could be included in Arsenal's squad for the first time in 10 months after recovering from a knee ligament injury but Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud, Mathieu Debuchy and Laurent Koscielny are still out of action.

Sunderland humiliation

Gus Poyet will give the majority of the Sunderland side to suffer humiliation in the 8-0 defeat at Southampton a chance to make amends against Arsenal.

The head coach has revealed he won't make wholesale changes, and confirmed goalkeeper Vito Mannone is set to retain his place despite being at fault for three of the goals at St Mary's Stadium in the club's heaviest Premier League defeat.

"Normally I don't change the keeper when they have a bad game," Poyet said. "If it's two bad games then he starts to have a problem, so at the moment there's no decision to make." He added none of the players on duty last weekend could have any complaints if they found themselves out of the side against Arsenal.

Sunderland's squad paid out more than £60,000 (S$122,500) to refund the 2,550 travelling fans who witnessed the Black Cats' capitulation at south coast side Southampton and Uruguayan boss Poyet said: "For the first time in many months whatever I want to do I can, I have a freedom.

"I can forget about everything I've done before and pick the team I want. I don't think there's anyone who can disagree.

"But because of the squad it's not like I can change 10 players. I think 75 per cent of the side is going to have a chance to play again. I want us to prove we're the team I thought we were before 3:00pm last Saturday."