Wes Brown has warned his Sunderland team-mates that they cannot afford a repeat of their West Brom showing when they go to Arsenal.
The Black Cats head to the capital this weekend as Premier League competition resumes after the international break.
Steve Bruce's side stumbled into the mid-season rest period as they were forced to recover from two goals down to snatch a point off West Brom.
A slow start cost them on that occasion and Brown knows a similar showing at the Emirates this Sunday will see Sunderland heading back to Wearside empty-handed.
"When you go to Arsenal, you have to keep it tight for at least the first 20 minutes," the former Manchester United defender told the Shields Gazette.
"We can't afford to get off to another really bad start like we did against West Brom.
"To be 2-0 down after five minutes gives you a mountain to climb.
"Thankfully we got back into that game, but if we start like that on Sunday, we've got no chance.
"We'll be looking to keep a clean sheet and hopefully drive on from there."
Sunderland and Arsenal have both endured tough starts to the 2011/12 campaign and Brown hopes the Black Cats can kick-start their season against the out-of-sorts Gunners.
He added: "Like ourselves, Arsenal haven't had too good a start to the season. They probably expected a bit more, just as we did.
"What we need is a win to restore some confidence and lift us back up the table.
"Arsenal have quality players and it will be a very difficult game for us.
"But I'm really looking forward to it. I've had a couple of weeks without a game now and I'm raring to go."