WAYNE Bridge and Sotirios Kyrgiakos will have to bide their time to be included in Sunderland’s starting line-up, admits Martin O’Neill.
The defensive pair moved to the Stadium of Light in deadline day loan deals, but have enjoyed limited involvement with the Black Cats so far – Bridge appearing for just eight minutes from the bench, while Kyrgiakos is yet to make his Sunderland bow.
The duo could have been involved in Sunderland’s midweek FA Cup success at Middlesbrough, but were ineligible as they completed their moves after the original game with the Teessiders.
Sunderland boss O’Neill could introduce the fresh legs of Bridge and Kyrgiakos against Arsenal tomorrow after the Black Cats completed a gruelling 30 minutes of extra-time at the Riverside.
But with Sunderland conceding just four times in 2012, O’Neill knows there is no rush to tinker with his defence.
O’Neill told the Echo: “They know that it is not automatic that they will be in the side.
“I’m delighted to have them here though and they know they will have to fight to force their way into the team, because we are doing okay at the moment.
“It’s a shame they weren’t available for the cup game in the week to be honest, because we could have done with their ability and experience.
“But they joined us after we had played Middlesbrough in the original tie, so that meant they were ineligible for the replay.
“With the games coming thick and fast at the moment, with the FA Cup running alongside the league, we will certainly need them.
“They will come into contention in the coming weeks regardless of what we do or don’t do this weekend.”
Former England international Bridge had found himself frozen out at parent club Manchester City while Kyrgiakos had endured a similarly miserable time at German side Wolsburg following his summer move from Liverpool.
“Wayne was saying that it is just good to be back and involved again,” said O’Neill.
“He’s got a few months here with us in which to prove himself to be the very good footballer that we know he is. And the same goes for Kyrgiakos.”
Sunderland head into tomorrow’s encounter with 33 points from 23 games, 22 of which have been picked up in O’Neill’s 10 Premier League matches in charge.
O’Neill added: “I’m delighted with the points tally. Obviously, I couldn’t have envisaged when I took over having 33 points at this stage – I don’t think anyone in their right mind would have predicted that.
“But we’re not getting carried away and I’m not going to start talking about raising our sights just yet.”