Sunderland v Arsenal; Premier League, Stadium Of Light; Saturday, 9th February; 15:00 KO
Sunderland striker Danny Graham is set to make his home debut on Saturday after his £5 million move from Swansea City during last month’s transfer window.
Titus Bramble is expected to continue alongside John O’Shea as Carlos Cuellar remains out with a hamstring problem, with captain Lee Cattermole’s knee injury meaning he is set to miss the clash with the Gunners. Wes Brown continues to be a long term-term absentee (knee) for Martin O’Neill’s Black Cats.
Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen has been ruled out of the trip to Wearside with an ankle injury, while defender Laurent Koscielny will face a late fitness test as he recovers from a calf problem.
Forward Theo Walcott is expected to be available (foot), as are midfielders Aaron Ramsey (calf) and Francis Coquelin (hamstring). Kieran Gibbs remains sidelined due to a thigh problem, and despite returning from the AFCON, Ivory Coast forward Gervinho is likely to miss out.
Wenger: Wilshere can become one of the World's best
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has praised Jack Wilshere’s desire and commitment, insisting this is what makes him a special talent.
After a man-of-the-match performance on Wednesday night in England’s 2-1 victory over Brazil at Wembley, Wilshere looks to have recovered his form after a lengthy spell out injured.
And, despite some concerns over his full-blooded approach to the game, Wenger believes it is a key ingredient to his success.
“You make your career and you are a bit special [because of] your qualities and that is one of the qualities Jack has: that commitment, that desire to win,” the manager said during his pre-match press briefing.
“You should not take that off him because he would not be the same player anymore. You can only be a great player if you respect who you really are and that is what makes him special.”
After 14 months out of action with both ankle and knee problems, the 21-year-old has made 21 appearances for Arsenal this season, scoring two goals.
And, after impressive performances for both club and country, Wenger hopes he can avoid another spell on the sidelines as the player strives to become one of world’s best.
“The influence he has today on the England national team already is absolutely fantastic - let's just hope that he does not have anymore injury problems in the near future. I believe he can handle all the rest," he added.
“He is fit on the ground, he loves football, he loves to play and he loves to improve so that is very good news for England. The most important thing for me will be to keep his passion for the game, and keep the attitude of wanting to become a better player.
“If he keeps these two ingredients - which is not always easy - he can become a fantastic player. He already is one, but he can become one of the best in the world."