Echo Jury: Gary Harrison anticipates a tough opening-day trip south

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WELL, a tough opening match, even harder than last season. Another wonder goal or scorching free-kick from Seb Larsson would be very welcome.

But where the match could be lost is with an early goal. Our defence must be at its best, our lack of firepower worries me – completed transfers permitting – and if Arsenal go ahead I struggle to see any other outcome but a home win.

Fortunately, Arsenal’s impressive summer buys may need a little time to gel together, so it could actually be a good time to play them, before they’re into their stride.

Sunderland must do to the Gunners what we did to Manchester City last season; overload and stifle their midfield before breaking on them. I don’t think there is any other way Martin O’Neill would approach this match. When we get chances, which will be few and far between, we need to grab them.

Arsenal’s flowing, passing game that gained another dimension at the back end of last season – after we eliminated them from the cup – utilises a floating playmaker behind the forward. Something, if fit, Sessegnon could do for us. That’s his best role and he played that to devastating effect away to Manchester City, a match I refer to because it’s the last we really competed in last season.

I’m hoping for a low-scoring match and a draw, but my head says Gunners win.

Prediction: Arsenal 2 Sunderland 0.

To read the rest of the Echo Jury, please see tonight’s Sunderland Echo.