Well, this is it. 90 minutes of match time and while there...
Arsenal v Swansea; Premier League Match Preview
“We will come back. Now we have six games, four at home, and if we do well in this block I think we have a chance to come back. But of course it is vital for us to do well in these games.”
So spoke Arsene Wenger ahead of this weekend’s tie against Swansea.
His focus on the home portion of these 6 matches is well founded. Arsenal have been less than stellar at home this season only winning 3 from their last 9 league matches at the Emirates (3W 4D 2L). That’s not exactly good form for a team that is supposed to be contending for the title – as we are led to believe.
But he’s right. With four games of the next 6 in the league at the Emirates the Gunners could feasibly get themselves right back into the middle of it. That is only, if they stop being so bloody wasteful.
Here’s the thing, Manchester United and Arsenal have the same amount of losses. What United have managed to do is be more efficient with their chances while Arsenal have been wasteful and the makers of their own demise.
Arsenal aren’t lacking opportunity. They are getting enough of the ball and establishing enough pressure to win the games they’ve drawn in. They either lack any really sense of urgency to get back into a match either when they go down or are drawn equal or they lack any creativity when their opponent sets in to stifle their play. This lack of creativity or ideas forces Arsenal to take wasteful chances that do very little to challenge the keeper offer any real hope that they can get back into the game.
Arsenal have also seemingly moved away from their attempt at tiki-taka style football. They’ve been doing it gradually since Cesc left but the real standout visual to me against Everton was the fact that if we weren’t lumping the ball forward we were trying for long key passes. Except there was one problem – the long key passes weren’t really making it to their intended target.
The long-ball and long passing is hurting Arsenal. But with the exception of Cazorla or Wilshere there doesn’t strike me as many other players that are comfortable or suited for a true tiki-taka style of play. Some try. Some fail. (cough cough Mr. Ramsey).
Now we were never going to be Barcelona in that aspect. But the way we played with fluidity and panache even in this drought of almost 8 years, was at least a badge of honour we could hold on to. It was also a reason why there always seemed to be a modicum of hope that the outcome of any game could be turned in our favor because of that one little moment of pure genius.
The fact is that one little moment of pure genius hasn’t really come with any level of consistency. Early on in the season there flashes. However, as we’ve got into this long rut, we seem more intent to be impatient then patient. We seem to force the issue. And that simply won’t do against teams that are getting better and wiser to how to play Arsenal.
Swansea are a good test. They’ve been a much improved team with Michael Laudrup as their manager. He’s taken the foundation established by Martinez, furthered by Rodgers and added a directness to it and it has gotten the desired results. Swansea have only lost 1 in their last 9 and are unbeaten in their last 5.
They are the only other team besides Manchester United who have yet to lose from a winning position this season. In other words this is not a team that is going to be an easy club.
We were told to start gauging Arsenal when we were 10-15 games in. Well we are here at 14 games and we are mid-table. Now we’re being asked to gauge us on the next 6 games. I must be a masochist because I always remain bullish about this club. And I’ll go the next 6 games. I’ll probably go all the way through May before I pass any kind of verdict. Like everyone else, I am frustrated because I did see promise in this team and it has been unrealized. I am hoping the team, the manager, and supporters can use this match as a start to some sort of redemptive run.
How the match should play out.
Both teams want the ball and the team that the ball longest and does something with it effectively, will win the match. As good as Laudrup’s charges have been he is still struggling to find the right combination up top. Who partners Michu and where does Michu play have affected their ability to score at times. Arsenal can only hope that they get it wrong. Arsenal need to get back to finding a way to unlock teams that press against them. It is the biggest reason they’ve digressed in their style of play. They need to get back to what they do best, hold the ball, unlock defenses and when pressured use their speed to hit the opponents on the counter. Should Arsenal come out flat, play with hesitancy they will feed into a good a Swansea team. They need to get back to their foundation of play in this match and come out with some urgency. How does it play out? Your guess is as good as mine. Form is worrying and I think we are fragile. I can see this easily being a 1-1 draw (I hope I am wrong on the positive side for Arsenal)
Players to Watch:
Arsenal. Thomas Vermaelen. The Arsenal captain turned in a solid, controlled performance on Wednesday. His first of the season. He needs to build on that and be the leader the club needs him to be now.
SCFC: Michu. The former Rayo Vallecano forward has been a revelation this season and already has 8 goals this season.
njuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Diaby (thigh), Fabianski (shoulder), Santos (abdomen), Koscileny (thigh), Sagna (foot – late fitness test)
SCFC: Graham (illess), Vorm (groin, pelvis), Bartley (thigh), Taylor (ankle)
Arsenal: Cazorla 4, Walcott 4, Giroud 4, Podolski 4
SCFC: Michu 8
Arsenal: Walcott 4
SCFC: De Guzman 3, Routledge 3
Arsenal (home): 2.7
SCFC (away): 1.3
Arsenal (home): 1.3
SCFC: (away): 1.2
Last Meeting (EPL):
Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Matches 7, R4 Y30)
US: Foxsoccer.tv 10:00AM EST
UK: ??????? BST
The Final Word
I’ve stayed away from calendar-gate the fact that the press and Arsenal fans are resorting to a calendar to determine who might and might not be here the next season is really borderline crazy – in a mental way.
So what Walcott AND Sagna were not in one of the various calendars that Arsenal put out. Well, yes, they are both involved in contract negotiations. And if something does happen then it’s plain to see that Arsenal marketing don’t want to end up with egg on their face like they did this year.
Question do you know who is the December 2012 calendar-boy? Better still do you know who adorned the 2012 Jr. Gunners magazine (or was it calendar – I can’t remember). If you answered with one of the recent Arsenal departures like say Robin Van Persie you’d be correct.
Arsenal were subject to additional press disdain and ridicule because of the inclusion of van Persie in those materials. Now they are being battered for not having Sagna and Walcott in the next calendar. Damned if they do. Damned if they don’t. Arsenal simply cannot win.
And as Arsenal fans we feed into that. A lot of us call the calendar story a non-story. But John Cross argues if it is such a non-story why was it the most read article on the Mirror web site in recent memory? Well, just because people read the story doesn’t mean its actually an issue John. No, people actually might just want to read what you said.
But the frenzy it has now caused is why John wrote a piece like this because it’s easy to get Arsenal fans agitated and engaged.
Arsenal are an easy target right now because of its fan base. We get upset, irritated or any maddening response by any negative mention of our team. That results in call-ins to radio programmes, eyeballs on articles on newspaper web sites, and hits on blogs. Anguish sells. It’s that simple.
I didn’t wade into the calendar issue or the Arsenal disprespecting supporters brouha (great write up on that here on Arseblog) because there are bigger concerns.
If I wanted to figure out who’s not going to be here next year I’ll just go to the local psychic.
Until next time – stay Goonerish!