Mesut Ozil is expected to be handed an immediate introduction to life in the English Premier League when his new club Arsenal tackle Sunderland at the Stadium of Light today.
The Germany international became the Gunners’ record signing when he completed a ￡42.4 million (US$66 million) move from Real Madrid on transfer deadline day and his arrival provided an immediate lift after a frustrating summer for the London club.
Prior to Ozil’s capture, manager Arsene Wenger had added only free agents Mathieu Flamini and Yaya Sanogo to his squad, as well as on-loan goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano.
The playmaker is expected to be thrust into action at the first opportunity after finally joining up with his new teammates following the international break.
Wenger said he had not yet taken a final decision on Ozil’s involvement, but any plans the manager may have had to ease the player into his new surroundings are likely to have been ended by the midweek injury to Tomas Rosicky.
Rosicky picked up a thigh injury while away with the Czech Republic, and with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) and Lukas Podolski (hamstring) already sidelined, Wenger’s options are limited.
Ozil insisted he is ready to take on the challenge after moving from the less physical Spanish league.
“I look forward to playing in this league. I watched so many Premier League games,” he said. “Of course, it’s very physical, it’s a man’s sport and I want to prove myself in England. I also played in the Bundesliga and Spain, and proved myself.”
Ozil and his teammates can expect a testing challenge at the Stadium of Light, despite Sunderland’s disappointing start to the campaign, but after responding impressively to the opening day home defeat by Aston Villa with league victories over Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur — as well as progressing to the group stage of the UEFA Champions League — confidence is high within Wenger’s squad.
They also received a further boost after England duo Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott reported back fit following Tuesday’s goalless draw in Ukraine.
With all eyes on Ozil, Sunderland hope a debutant with a rather lower profile can help wrestle the limelight from the German.
Fabio Borini is set to figure for the hosts for the first time after sealing a season-long loan move from Liverpool shortly before the transfer deadline.
“The headlines are going to be around Ozil, but that puts a little bit of pressure on Arsenal because they’ve got this new player who they’ve spent a lot on,” the Italian forward said. “There’ll be a lot of hype around him, but maybe that will be good because no one will focus on us.”
Borini hopes to ease the mounting pressure on compatriot Paolo di Canio, the head coach, who has seen Sunderland take just one point from their first three games.
Di Canio risked a changing-room rebellion after singling out players for public criticism following the 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.
Undaunted, he is set to make changes, with skipper John O’Shea suspended and forward duo Ji Dong-won and Connor Wickham likely to be dropped after failing to impress at Selhurst Park.
Ki Sung-yeung hopes to be involved for the first time after the midfield player’s loan arrival from Swansea City, US international forward Jozy Altidore is fit after hamstring trouble and Steven Fletcher is pushing for a first Premier League start in six months after a serious ankle injury.
The Scotland international could partner Borini, who added: “It’s a big game against a top team, but for us it’s a chance to get that first league win. Arsenal have got a very good team technically and we’ve got to try to be physical against them.”