O'Neill: Hard work will be key

by Stuart Vose

Boss lays out plans for Arsenal test.

Martin O'Neill says his players will have to repeat the committed showing produced against Arsenal earlier in the season if they are to get back to winning ways this weekend.

Sunderland welcome the Gunners to the Stadium of Light looking to bounce back from last week's late defeat at Reading.

A bumper crowd is expected on Wearside to watch the Black Cats take on Arsene Wenger's men for a second time this season, having banked a point from a 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium on the opening day of the campaign.

It's important to try to get back to winning ways because we had been on a good run

- Martin O'Neill

O'Neill saw his players hassle and harry the Gunners throughout the 90 minutes to start the 2012-13 season on a positive note and is looking for more of the same in the return clash.

“We need those levels of effort and application again,” O'Neill said before overseeing a Thursday afternoon training session with his players now back from international duty.

“Arsenal have seen the emergence of one or two younger players and, especially going forward, they are absolutely excellent. I think they're a fine side.

“They're looking to cement that Champions League place again for next season, and that said they're still in that competition as well as the FA Cup.”

Meanwhile O'Neill highlighted England man Theo Walcott as a particular danger with the former Southampton man enjoying some of the best form of his career.

Walcott, who recently ended speculation about his future by signing a new contract at Arsenal, has already bagged 18 goals this season and is now utilising his searing pace in a central striker's role.

“He had been talking about wanting to play centre-forward and has been excellent since signing his contract, as he had indeed been in the weeks before,” O'Neill said.

“Walcott is in very fine form.  The sheer fact that Arsenal can use him in any number of positions bodes well for them.”

Sunderland, meanwhile, can advance into the top 10 of the Barclays Premier League should they win and other results go in their favour.

And O'Neill says the importance of flushing out a couple of off-colour displays cannot be underestimated.

“We had a rather stodgy game against Swansea and then I was hoping we could put that out of our minds and go on to win at Reading,” he explained.

“A draw would have been a fair enough result but we were very disappointed to lose the game late on.

“It's important to try to get back to winning ways because we had been on a good run.”