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Match Preview: Arsenal v Swansea City; Premier League Match Day 6

Arsenal look to continue their historic away run when they visit the Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea City. Sounds kind of epic doesn’t it? It is and it isn’t. It’s historic in that should Arsenal rise to the challenge and do the deed, they will cap off their 12th straight win. It isn’t, because there is still a long road to travel in this marathon of a season.

Arsenal look to continue their historic away run when they visit the Liberty Stadium to take on Swansea City. Sounds kind of epic doesn’t it? It is and it isn’t. It’s historic in that should Arsenal rise to the challenge and do the deed, they will cap off their 12th straight win. It isn’t, because there is still a long road to travel in this marathon of a season.

So why the two competing thoughts? Just to keep us all grounded. I’m as giddy as anyone as Arsenal’s continued success. But I also like to temper it with some reality.  For instance if they win – it will be utterly fantastic. I will be over the moon with glee. But in my mind I know there is still work to be done and that it’s just another match to put away. If we lose or draw? I’ll be upset. I will want to discuss the flaws in the game plan but I won’t go over a ledge and cry that the sky is falling, because much like the winning scenario, a little perspective is needed. A loss won’t amount to much right now and it can always be overcome.

Anyway, Arsenal look to continue their impressive ride against a Swansea City, that looks firmly entrenched in the Premier League. They continue to play with style and on their day can give any team fits. They were unlucky to draw United and Tottenham in the first two weeks of the season but they should’ve walked away from the match with Spurs with at least a draw as only a dodgy penalty call saved Tottenham from being upset by a team clearly better on the day.

Arsenal know what that’s like. We all remember when Swansea out-“Arsenaled,” Arsenal at the Emirates. That day sits particularly hard as they were clearly the better side throughout the match and won it cleanly. So much was their performance that the Emirates faithful rose to applaud the visistors off the field.

It really is a good match for both teams as both are playing particularly well.  We’ve mentioned Arsenal’s impressive away streak (yes, I am counting the League Cup a win. Arsenal advanced didn’t they? Only winners advance) as well as pulling off 7 straight wins in all competitions since losing to Aston Villa on opening day. Swansea up until losing to Birmingham in their League Cup title defense, had won four on the trot.

It’s rought for Swansea too as they’ve faced many of the big opponents early in this season. And for the most part they’ve come off well. Again, they were unlucky against Tottenham. The team that clearly plays better defensively is going to have the advantage here. This will be a wide open event. None of this “parking the bus” or long ball lobbing from the back, it will be posession and passing for the entire match.

Why I favor Arsenal slightly more is the better defensive record – of all things. At home Swansea don’t score a lot. They’ve only managed to take 1 point from their home fixtures this season and they let in an average of 3 goals a game. Coincidentally Arsenal are scoring an average of 3 goals a game on the road.

The key for Arsenal will be to keep Michu off the ball, especially around the box. With either Bony or Vasquez up top, Michu is playing in his more comfortable role behind the main striker. With his comfortability slotting back there he has been getting his chances and has 2 goals already this season. Arsenal fans will remember when he absolutely shredded the Gunners and scored two rather quickly in their December 2012 matchup.

He needs to be accounted for. Either Flamini or Arteta will have to sit back deep and provide cover for the defense. Michu can’t be allowed to get on the ball and create or take chances. He is the key to every thing Swansea does and with a solid supporting cast and top class manager in Michael Laudrup, it should come as no surprise that Swansea are doing as well as they have done (and will do.)

Arsenal injuries are like the push-me pull you from Dr. Dolittle, we pull one out and one goes back in. It’s like som sick debt to the football god’s we are forever paying. Mikel Arteta comes back into the squad and I believe will likely play in place of the stellar Mathieu Flamini, who is reportedly carrying a little knock. But the bigger injury concern is Theo Walcott. Walcott was taken out of the lineup before last week’s match with Stoke and replaced by youngster Serge Gnabry. Walcott has had had a minor procedure on abdomen to repair what is being reported as a minor tear (not a hernia). Current projections are that Walcott will be back playing in a fortnight.

Interestingly if all projections hold true most of the injured squad save, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diaby should be back by the time Arsenal return from the next round of World Cup qualifiers. Still losing Walcott is something to be concerned about. My only criticism (if you can call it that) of last week was that the lack of Walcott’s pace changed our dynamic on our counter attack.

Gnabry in my opinion seemed to play a little in himself last week. It’s understandable, he likely wasn’t ready to play and his warm up wasn’t one focused on game time preparation. But unlike Theo, Gnabry isn’t afraid to possess the ball. Theo isn’t a big possession guy. The key for him is to get it on his foot, put ont he after burners and either cross or shoot. There is no real finesse to his game when it comes to footwork. Gnabry has the speed but he is also very comfortable in posession. So it seemed at least to me that when he got the ball the last week, often times he would cary the ball in the middle of the pitch rather than use the flanks.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this, it’s just a different style of play and a different dynamic.

People want to worry and cry about the fact Theo is out. The claim is our bench is thin. Before anyone cries over this – Podolski, Santi, the Ox and Theo represent our wing players. 4 of them. Two for each side. Add in Gnabry and that’s five players with the ability to play comfortably on the wing. There isn’t a lack of depth here just a wealth of injuries. And who could project that your 4 wide players would all get injured inside of the same 4 week period? No one, so this injury while it’s frustrating isn’t a sign that Wenger has gone and done something wrong.

But I digress. There is a match to discuss.

Arsenal want to continue their impressive run. They’ve got the team focused and the right mentality to do so and there is no reason they can’t. We can’t expect Arsenal to stay top of the league all the time right now. The team is thin right now and I still feel a player or two short from real title contention. So regardless of the outcome there is still all to play for.

How the Match Should Play Out:

Four Four Two dubbed this match: As the showcase fot the Premier League’s Tiki Taka brand of football. It won’t disappoint in that area. As we mentioned earlier it will come down to which defense can tighten up the most and its why I give the edge to Arsenal in this match. Look for an away win.

Players to watch:
Arsenal. Serge Gnabry. Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Özil would be the easy picks. But Gnabry has chance to show he really belongs with the senior squad. He has been impressive in all his performances. Look for that to continue as his confidence grows.

Swansea. Michu. Do I need to really explain why? Let me just put it this way – his form is so impressive he could be playing for Arsenal either after January or by this time next year.

 Projected Lineups:

Video Lineup:

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal:  Diaby (knee),  Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee) Podolski (calf) Rosicky (thigh), Walcott (stomach)

Swansea:  Williams (ankle – late fitness test), Hernandez (hamstring – late fitness test)

Last Meeting (EPL):
Arsenal: 2

Swansea: 0

Leading Scorer:
Arsenal: Giroud 4

Swansea: Michu 2

Arsenal: Özil 4

Swansea: Hernandez 2

Last 5:
Arsenal: LWWWW

Swansea: LLWDW

Goals For:
Arsenal (away): 3

Swansea (home): 1.5

Goals Against:
Arsenal (away): 1

Swansea (home) : 3

Goal Differential:
Arsenal: 5

Swansea: 0

Match Official:
Referee: Clattenburg (Matches: 2. R0 Y12)
Assistants:  Beck, Child
Fourth Official: Mariner

Broadcast Information:
US: NBC: 12:30 PM

UK: Sky Sports 1: 17.30 GMT

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YAMA Prediction:
Arsenal: 2

Swansea: 1

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