Thomas Vermaelen is bracing himself for a tough afternoon when Arsenal travel to Sunderland on Saturday.

The Gunners were held to a goalless draw by Martin O’Neill’s side on the opening day of the campaign, and were also knocked out of last season’s FA Cup by the Black Cats at the fifth-round stage.

Lukas Podolski’s late winner secured a hard-fought win against Stoke City last weekend, and Vermaelen is expecting another tight game at the Stadium of Light.

“Sunderland away is always a tough game,” he told Arsenal Player. “I think we did well in the first game of the season at home against Sunderland. We couldn’t score but we were the better team and had the better chances.

“I think Sunderland has a little bit more technical quality than Stoke. Stoke was always a difficult game.

“We were the better side all over the game [last weekend]. We had a few chances in the first half, but it’s difficult against them. They defend well and they’re strong. In the end I’m happy we could get the goal.”

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source Nik Brumsack 7 Feb 2013