Match Preview: Arsenal v Swansea City; Looking to Roll On
This interlull took an eternity. Okay not an eternity but it sure as hell felt like it and it is so so good to have the Arsenal back to talk about. We’re all hoping that the Gunners can resume where they left off and keep pushing on for a title this season.
It’s not going to be easy though, the opponent this weekend is a bit of a bogey team for the Gunners as Swansea come to the Emirates once again. In fact, in the last 5 meetings in the Premier League, Arsenal have managed a paltry record of 1W 3L 1D. It’s only away on the road where Arsenal have seemed to get the better of the Swans.
The hope is that this time might be different. Swansea come into the Emirates just outside of the relegation zone. Their form this season has been abysmal – 1 draw and 4 loses in their last 5. The run has led to the sacking of Francesco Guidolin who managed to last a mere 259 days before being replaced by American Bob Bradley.
Bradley has the task of trying to tighten things up at Swansea but for him the task comes against an Arsenal side that has managed to turn things on since their opening day defeat to Liverpool.
Wenger, being a man of habit is likely to persist with the lineup that has done so well, even if the likes of Alexis Sanchez have only just returned from international duty. Of course we’d all like to see Lucaz Perez get a turn up top and let Alexis have a well-deserved rest but between Wenger’s desire to keep things the same and Alexis’ energizer bunny-like behavior – it’s quite likely we will see the Chilean back at the front of the Arsenal attack again.
The other “big” decision that Wenger will have to mull over is whether or not it’s Granit Xhaka or Francis Coquelin who slots in besides Santi Cazorla in the Arsenal midfield. Coquelin has just returned from his brief injury spell and Wenger hasn’t hid his preference for the tested duo of Coquelin and Cazorla who worked solidly together during the 14/15 season.
For me, it has to be Xhaka. I know Coquelin isn’t as bad as many make him out to be, but Xhaka’a passing ability combined with his ability to shut down play moves him instantly ahead of Coquelin in the debth chart in my opinion. Xhaka has vision and ability that just aren’t part of Coquelin’s tool kit. There is nothing wrong with that from a Coquelin perspective. The Frenchman still has a role to play at Arsenal but for a game like this I’d rather have the passing of Xhaka then the steel of Coquelin.
It’s obviously hard to predict how Swansea will set up. This match is a hard one to have for a new manager. That being said, Bradley will likely look to set up to minimize damage and try and sneak a result out. So it’s safe to suspect that the adventurous team that has visited the Emirates before will likely be more pragmatic and sit back and try and hit Arsenal on the counter.
For Arsenal the key will be to patient but quick. We have a propensity for being too pragmatic against a deep defending opponent. We’ve got to focus on our speed of play specifically when looking to move through the middle channels. Slow it down and we allow the defenders to adjust effectively and close off passing lanes. Move the ball effectively with smart runs in front of the ball and we can create space between the lines and likely create better scoring changes.
In the end I suspect this is a match that Swansea would like to get a result from but they’ll be more focused on their matches at home to begin to turning things around. Arsenal fresh from having a multitude of players return from international duty may look lethargic to start but will likely do just enough to get the result they need.
Manager’s Perspective (courtesy Arsenal.com)
“Before we played Chelsea I spoke to you about inconvenient facts relating to Chelsea, and another team with those stats is Swansea,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “It’s another hurdle for us, especially with them having a new manager as well.
“Last year they were a big blow for us [when they won 2-1 at the Emirates]. The result against them in the Premier League basically ended our title hopes.
“It’s true that we were questioned at the time, but this time we are in better psychological condition. We’ve been warned and we have a good opportunity to show that we have moved forward, and that we can deal with these kinds of facts.
“It is about refocusing quickly and refocusing on the targets of the club after the players have been under pressure with their national teams,” he added.
“For us it’s important to focus on getting up to the next level and we want to improve. We are in a very difficult league where everybody is trying to become better and better so fast that it’s important we focus on how we get better ourselves.
“Where we stand at the moment is good, our results are good, but we also have to look inside our game to try to improve what we can.”
Player to Watch:
Arsenal. Theo Walcott. Spending the summer free of international duty turned him into a man on a mission. Let’s hope his return to the England fold hasn’t taken that edge off.
Swansea. Leroy Fer. From his position in the midfield leads all Swansea players with 4 goals.
Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Giroud (toe), Ramsey (hamstring), Mertesacker (knee), Welbeck (knee)
Swansea: Llorente (rib), Montero (hamstring), Dyer (ankle)
Referee: Jonathon Moss (6M, 35Y, 1R)
Assistant Referees: H Lennard, M Perry
Fourth Official: N Swarbrick
UK: BBC MOTD 1 – Highlights only
US: CNBC 10:00AM EST
Arsenal 2 – 0 Swansea
Match Facts (Courtesy FourFourTwo.com via Opta)
- Arsenal have enjoyed just one win in their last five Premier League meetings with Swansea, losing three and drawing one.
- At the Emirates, Swansea are unbeaten on their last four visits in the Premier League winning three and drawing one.
- Arsenal have averaged just 0.8 points per game at home to Swansea in the Premier League, their worst return on home soil against any side.
- Conversely, the Swans’ average of 2.0 points per game away to Arsenal in the Premier League is the best return for any visiting side at the Emirates.
- In each of Swansea’s last four league visits to the Emirates, the Welsh side have either won or drawn the game courtesy of goals scored in the 74th minute or later.
- Bob Bradley is the first American manager to oversee a Premier League game.
- Arsene Wenger has won six of his eight games against managers overseeing their first Premier League game (incl. caretakers), losing the last (v Slaven Bilic’s West Ham in August 2015) and the first (v Stuart Pearce’s Nottingham Forest in December 1996).
- Leroy Fer has scored four goals in his seven Premier League appearances this season, as many as in his previous 26 in the competition.
- Arsenal have been trailing for just 52 minutes in the top-flight this season, fewer than any other side.
- The Gunners have now kept four clean sheets in a row in all competitions; they last enjoyed a longer run without conceding in February 2009 (six consecutive shutouts).
- Mesut Ozil has provided just one assist in his last 16 top-flight games, after registering 11 in the 16 before that.