By Adam Clark

If Steve Coppell's Reading were supposed to be this season's Premiership's whipping boys it seems somebody forgot to tell them.

Fantastic form at home - they have won twice, drawn against Manchester United and were unfortunate in their only defeat against Chelsea - has seen the Royals climb to eighth in the Premiership. One of the central figures behind the smooth transition from second tier to top flight has been Senegalese star Ibrahima Sonko. 

It's Arsenal's turn to go in search of victory at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday and the burly centre back is certain to make life difficult for Henry and co. Fortunately we will have an equally determined Frenchman who will be endeavouring to keep it just as tight at our end.  

Since arriving from Chelsea on transfer deadline day William Gallas has made light work of fitting in at Emirates Stadium. A series of assured performances and a breakthrough goal against Sheffield United have made the swift-footed defender an instant hit with Gunners fans.

Both players will be looking to protect their reputations this weekend but, according to this seasons statistics, who is more likely to do so?

Defensively both players' contributions have been sound. Sonko has attempted 17 tackles and failed to come out on top on just five occasions. Gallas' input of four challenges pales in comparison. However, this is surely the result of Arsenal spending less time under pressure than the Royals; besides, the efficient French international boasts an impressive 100 per cent success rate. 

Both have excelled in sweeping up at the back. The Reading man's record reads 12 clearances and five blocks. Gallas meanwhile has cleared up 10 times and blocked two opposition efforts.

Arsenal fans may have noticed an eagerness in their new signing to venture forward as much as possible. The goal against Sheffield United aside, Gallas has made four dribbles, of which two have been successful, attempted two crosses and managed four shots on goal, one on target, three off.  

Sonko, on the other hand, has failed to tick a box in any of these departments.

One area in which both players are equal is their distribution. Of the 41 passes completed by the Senegalese stalwart only 15 have strayed. In comparison, the Arsenal man has succeeded in finding his target 22 times from 35 attempts.

The pair can also take pleasure from their notably clean disciplinary records to date. They have given away just three free kicks and received one booking between them, although Gallas is responsible for just the one foul and was not the man to see yellow.

So it seems both players will offer tough resistance when their respective defences meet on Sunday afternoon. Having lost last weekend's controversial match against Chelsea, Coppell will be looking to avoid successive home defeats. Similarly, Arsène Wenger will be hoping his side can get swiftly back on track by putting Tuesday's defeat in Moscow behind them. 

Either way, commitment and efficiency will be required at the back and the statistics suggest that in Gallas and Sonko, both managers have defenders they can depend on.

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View William Gallas' player profile

Head to Head Statistics William Gallas Ibrahima Sonko Premiership Appearances 5 7 Minutes on pitch 441 630 Attacking Goals 1 0 Shots on target 1 0 Shots off target 3 0 Shots blocked 0 0 Offside 0 0 Supporting Assists 0 0 Passes made 35 41 Passes complete 22 26 Passes incomplete 13 15 Crosses successful 0 0 Crosses unsuccessful 2 0 Total dribbles 4 0 Dribbles successful 2 0 Dribbles unsuccessful 2 0 Defending Tackles made 4 17 Tackles won 4 12 Tackles lost 0 5 Interceptions 3 4 Blocked Shots 2 5 Clearances 10 12 Penalties Conceded 0 1 Own Goals 0 0 Discipline Fouls 1 2 Yellow Cards 0 1

NB: Statistics as at Friday, October 20, 2006.

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20 Oct 2006