After eight months on the sidelines, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst will make a welcome return to competitive action in the Worthington Cup clash with Sunderland. Gio was playing well until picking up a serious injury against Fulham in February and his return to fitness will come as a big boost to Arsenal.
Like the Gunners, Sunderland will use the game as an opportunity to give some of their fringe players a chance to press their claims to a first team spot. One player who will have more reasons than most to put on a good display is Stefan Schwarz.
The former Arsenal man fell out of favour towards the end of last season and was told he was free to find a new club, but he is still at Sunderland and will be given the chance to impress new manager Howard Wilkinson on Wednesday.
Schwarz played just one season for Arsenal, but he did enough to earn the respect of Arsenal's fans before moving to Fiorentina in a #1.75 million deal. From there he moved to Valencia before returning to English football with a #4 million move to Sunderland in 1999.
Although Arsenal fans will have fond memories of a late Schwarz strike in the 1995 Cup Winners Cup semi-final against Sampdoria - neither Schwarz or Van Bronckhorst has been a regular goalscorer at club level.
Schwarz did score the equaliser in the 1-1 draw between Sunderland and Arsenal at The Stadium of Light last season. That was his only goal of the campaign - a tally matched by Van Bronckhorst, whose solitary strike came in Arsenal's 3-1 win away to Leicester.
But both men are excellent passers of the ball and solid tacklers to boot. Van Bronckhorst is also a highly versatile player who is capable of playing on the left or centre of midfield as well as at full-back if required.
It is likely that both players will start in the centre of midfield on Wednesday though and they are likely to be in direct competition with each other. Both have points to prove to their managers so we can expect a hard fought battle. Last season's statistics suggest that it will be a closely fought contest between the two.
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5 Nov 2002
Giovanni van Bronckhorst - Stefan Schwarz 1277 Minutes Played 1595 Goal Attempts 1 Goals 1 12 Shots On Target 6 9 Shots Off Target 1 13 Blocked Shots 7 Passing 0 Goal Assists 4 592 Total Passes 683 76% Pass Completion 77% Crossing 97 Total Crosses 32 29% Cross Completion 22% Dribbling 23 Dribbles & Runs 21 83% Dribble Completion 76% Defending 57 Tackles Made 89 61% Tackles Won 69% 6 Blocks 4 8 Clearances 12 2 Interceptions 8 Discipline 36 Fouls 42 1 Offside 0 4 Yellow Cards 7 1 Red Cards 0