Dead-ball specialist

Sweden's Sebastian Larsson has made a blistering start to his Sunderland career, scoring a stunning scissor-kick on his debut to earn his club a 1-1 draw against Liverpool and he has quickly become an integral member of the team.

As Sunderland manager Martin O'Neill assesses his new squad he can take comfort from the fact that he has one of the Barclays English Premier League's dead-ball specialists in his ranks.

O'Neill's first game in charge against Blackburn looked to be heading for defeat until David Vaughan struck late on to equalise. Sebastian Larsson then took centrestage, curling home a free-kick in stoppage time to leave O'Neill jumping for joy and celebrating a dream start to his tenure.

Sweden international midfielder Larsson moved to the Stadium of Light on a free transfer this summer after his contract expired at relegated Birmingham.

Steve Bruce was no doubt swayed by Larsson's performances for Birmingham against Sunderland that season as the Swede assisted both of the Blues' goals in the away fixture and then scored in the home game, but the former Black Cats boss already knew all about the wide man having worked with him during his time as Blues boss.

After spending six years coming through the famous Arsenal Academy and making 12 appearances for the Gunners first team, Larsson signed for Birmingham for GBP1 million in the January transfer window in the 2006/07 season.

Larsson is predominantly a right-winger, but was deployed in both full-back slots, centre midfield and on both flanks during his time at St. Andrew's. However, his quality always shone through in his favoured position out wide on the right.

The Swede has made a blistering start to his Sunderland career, scoring a stunning scissor-kick on his debut to earn Sunderland a 1-1 draw at Liverpool and he has quickly become an integral member of their team.

Larsson already has five goals to his name this season, including a 30 yard free-kick on his return to Arsenal and that timely winner against Blackburn.

His goals were not enough to prevent Bruce from being sacked, but new manager O'Neill will almost certainly accommodate Larsson in his squad, particularly given the impact he made in his first game in charge.

Larsson's performances have also helped him to amass over 30 appearances for Sweden and he was also a regular member of the squad that has qualified for the 2012 European Championship. He also played against England at Wembley in a friendly in November and almost scored as the Swedes lost 1-0.

During his time at Birmingham, Larsson scored with a stunning 35-yard strike in Alex McLeish's first game in charge against Tottenham, a goal that gave him extra satisfaction being a former Arsenal player.

Larsson was a Carling Cup winner during his time with Blues and a firm favourite with fans at St. Andrew's.

Birmingham were keen to keep hold of the former Arsenal man, but the Swede always looked likely to leave as he prepared to become a free agent and there was plenty of interest in him from EPL clubs.

He opted for a move north to the Stadium of Light and has wasted no time settling in. Larsson did miss a penalty at Wolves which proved to be costly as Mick McCarthy's side fought back to win 2-1, but he made amends against Blackburn.

O'Neill will no doubt be eager to strengthen his squad as Sunderland look to avoid a relegation battle and the Northern Irishman will probably already have a good idea of key positions to recruit.

But a right midfielder is not expected to be on his wishlist, with Larsson already having proved he can be a match-winner in his own right.

Larsson's girlfriend is his teenage love Tina. Together they have a daughter named Nellie.

FACTFILE Name: Sebastian Larsson Position: Midfielder Club: Sunderland D.O.B: 06/06/1985 Sweden caps: 38 Sweden goals: 3 Sweden debut: v Turkey, 2008 Moment to remember

Scoring a penalty against Holland in a 3-2 victory to ensure Sweden's qualification for the 2012 European Championships.

Moment to forget

Suffering relegation with Birmingham on the last day of the season at Tottenham.

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