SUNDERLAND fans will have to wait to see how a Louis Saha-Stephane Sessegnon partnership will work, with Martin O’Neill set to play a lone striker at the Emirates tomorrow afternoon.
Former Manchester United, Everton and Spurs star Saha yesterday tied up a one-year deal with the Black Cats and was immediately included in the squad due to face Champions League Arsenal tomorrow.
But supporters will have to wait for the home game against Reading next week for realistic prospects of the duo being paired up front.
O’Neill said last season that teams take a terrible risk if they play four across the middle against pass-masters Arsenal.
And with Arsene Wenger’s men at home and hoping to repeat or improve on their third-place Premier League finish last season, O’Neill will pack his midfield and play a lone striker.
That means should Saha and injury-doubt Sessegnon both feature in the game, one will be the replacement of the other.
Saha won’t mind what role he is asked to play at Arsenal tomorrow, confident that he has the fitness levels to perform despite a summer without a club.
The 34-year-old has been a free agent since his departure from Spurs at the end of last season but said: “I have been working really hard so I am not far from full fitness.
“I will be available this weekend – if the manager picks me – and it will be nice to be back in the Premier League.”
The much-travelled Saha credited sacked Spurs boss Harry Redknapp for sparking an upturn in his form last season and will hope man-motivator Martin O’Neill can have a similar influence in the season ahead.
“The manager has great experience and has been successful wherever he has been,” said the French forward.
“This is a great chance to play under him.
“I played against Sunderland for a good few years and you can’t help but notice what a hard place the Stadium of Light is to come to because the fans have unbelievable passion.
“It’s a great opportunity for me.
“I am really pleased to play for such a club and I look forward to working hard for the team.”
O’Neill was pleased too that the deal was able to be completed after weeks of frustration in the transfer market trying to strengthen his squad in general and his forward line in particular.
He said: “Louis is a striker whose abilities have been proven at the very highest level and he brings with him a raft of experience of top-flight football.
“I’m sure he will be a great addition to our squad in an area we recognise needs strengthening and I’m delighted we have been able to complete the deal ahead of our first game of the season.”
Saha is the second arrival at the Stadium of Light this summer – both of them Bosmans – after centre-half Carlos Cuellar was reunited with the former Aston Villa boss.