Free agent to shun Arsenal in favour of Sunderland switch

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Reports on Saturday morning indicate that Sunderland have won the race for one of the Premier League’s most sought-after free agents, fighting off alleged interest from Arsenal and Aston Villa to sign Sebastian Larsson.

The Daily Mail claim that the winger, who was unable to save Birmingham from relegation last season, has been persuaded to accept a move to the Stadium of Light by his former Blues manager Steve Bruce.

The Black Cats boss took Larsson to St Andrew’s, initially on loan, in 2006 and has continued to track the Arsenal trainee’s progress, and his desire to close a deal has supposedly been a decisive factor in the Sweden international’s decision.

It would represent a significant coup for Sunderland given the number of clubs credited with an interest in the 26-year-old, and shows their ambition to maintain their improvement after a first top-half finish in a decade in 2010-11.

Chairman Niall Quinn has already denied speculation that striker Asamoah Gyan could be sold this summer and instead Bruce is hopeful of further investment to push his side forwards.

With a top-four finish unlikely, one way of demonstrating their progress would be through sealing their first major silverware in 39 years, and the Wearsiders are available at 40/1 to win the Carling Cup.

Larsson of course claimed that trophy with Birmingham last term, however despite that success earning them a bye into the third round of this year’s competition, odds of 100/1 are offered on them retaining.

The second city side, who are yet to confirm their manager for the upcoming season after Alex McLeish’s controversial departure for Aston Villa, are 5/2 to gain promotion despite doing so in their last three Championship campaigns.

Further encouragement for Blues backers is provided by the fact that they have made the play-offs at the very least in each of their last six excursions in the second tier.

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