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Match Preview: Swansea City v Arsenal; Trying to Keep Pace

After a brief FA Cup interlude regular football returns with Swansea City v Arsenal. For the Gunners we have to win in order to keep pace with the title chase and not fall further down the table.

It seems harsh looking at a team that has lost only 3 times and worry that they are in a free fall. But that’s what we sort of looking like here. In reality, Arsenal are playing to typical form while the rest of the teams around them, save for maybe Man City, are performing better.

Those better performance and sustained runs have clogged up the top of the table. It’s also coincided with Arsenal annual dip in form. Arsenal can’t settle for anything short of a win for fear that they could fall behind an inform Manchester United, currently in sixth in the table.

Now, there is plenty of football left to play and the intangibles will really start to come into play when the Champion’s League and Europa League resume. It should come as no surprise that Man United and Spurds form coincides with the end of the first set of European contests.

Arsenal just need to stay in the chase and when Europe resumes they will likely see movement upwards. Now of course the 1 and 2 team in the table don’t have the constraints of Europe. They don’t necessarily have to rotate. But I still think you can expect Liverpool to tire out and possibly fade a little and well Chelsea at some point are going to hit a rocky patch again.

It’s all about staying consistent and winning the games you have to win, like this one versus Swansea.

When we last played Swansea, it was Bob Bradley’s first week in charge. As we take the field tomorrow at the Liberty stadium, Bob won’t be there. In his place will be Paul Clement. It’s an interesting fact that we once again face off against Swansea as their new manager takes control.

What kind of team we face off against is anyone’s guess. Who knows what Clement will have instilled into his side in just a week with them. Before Clement, and fairly for much of the season, they’ve looked absolutely poor.

In our last match up, a nervy 3-2 win, Swansea went down quickly on 2 goals from Theo Walcott. The match put away by Mesut Özil. Arsenal, were typically their own worst enemy and it was a poor performance from Granit Xhaka that really stood out (that and his red card.)

Arsenal need to take this one by the horns and run away with it. It’s why I think (and hope) Wenger reverts to using Sanchez up top. Swansea’s defending is shambolic and while you suspect Giroud could have his way with the back 4 – the dynamic Sanchez presents offers Arsenal and ability to really pull Swansea apart when we are in the attacking third.

Bookending Sanchez should be Iwobi and Lucas with Özil playing his normal number 10 role. Its creativity and speed that made Arsenal look so good for large parts in the early part of the season. They need that and it’s what opposition have a hard time against.

As much as I like Giroud, I think with him in the lineup it forces us to be too slow and too predictable. Sure, in the end we wind up, unlocking an opposition and that’s great. It would also be great to try and put an opponent away earlier, force the match to open up and hurt a team further.

It seems harsh (to some) to pull out a player who is scoring regularly. The reality is for recent matches with Giroud up top, its only after we have spent 70 minutes looking absolutely turgid that we lump the ball to Giroud and he’s good enough that he’s likely to get at least one gilt edge chance

That simply can’t be the way forward. For Arsenal (and for the betterment of Gooner cardiovascular health) it’s got to be a lineup that uses speed and creativity and pulls apart the opposition. That lineup doesn’t feature Olivier Giroud.

Players to Watch.
Arseanl. Lucas Perez. The Spaniard goes from match to match showing why he was such a deft signing. Arsene Wenger can’t afford to drop him.

Swansea. Lukas Fabianksi. Only because he could come under increasing pressure if Arsenal play to their potential. If Swansea want to survive he can’t revert to Flappyhandski.

Probable Lineups:

Probable Lineups for Swansea City v Arsenal 14 January 2017

click to enlarge

Injuries and Suspensions:
Arsenal: Bellerin (ankle), Coquelin (hamstring), Gibbs (knee), Walcott (calf), Debuchy (hamstring), Cazorla (foot), Mertesacker (match fitness)

Swansea: Taylor (cheekbone), Barrow (knock), Montero (hamstring), Narsingh (hamstring)

Last 5:
Arsenal: LLWWD

Swansea: LLLLW

Goals Scored Per Game:
Arsenal: 2.20

Swansea: 1.15

Goal Conceded Per Game:
Arsenal. 1.10

Swansea 2.25

The Manager’s Perspective (via

“The preparation of the whole week sets the tone, and then the quality of the expected difficulty of the game as well,” said the boss.

“Then it’s a case of how big your ambition is to be at your best personally, to achieve something with the team that is special. That needs the consistency in your focus, and that’s what is the difference between a champion and someone who is not a champion.

“Ideally, we want to start strong and finish strong. Preston was a typical FA Cup game and always subconsciously when you come out of the Christmas period, you think it will be a bit easier in the FA Cup. It’s not.”

If the seriousness is there, the results will follow and the gap will close. Wenger’s aim is to sit back and enjoy Sunday’s live fixtures with the job done in Swansea.

“When you look at the fixtures, you always have that feeling every week [that it’s an opportunity] because the Premier League is so difficult,” he said.

“You will always feel that it’s down to us not failing. Let’s focus on the process. We have five months in front of us and it’s very important that we feel like we’ve given absolutely everything to finish at the top.

“It’s very important that we focus on the process, what we can improve, how much better we can play in the next game and how we can win the game. After that, we look around us and never in the reverse. We can’t look around us and forget about how much is demanded from ourselves.”

Match Officials:
Mike Jones (11M, 35Y, 1R)
Assistants: R West, M Scholes
Fourth official: O Langford

Broadcast Information:
UK: BBC MOTD Highlights Only/ – Audio Only 15.00 GMT
US: NBC Sports Network 10:00 AM EST

YAMA Predicts
Swansea 1 – 3 Arsenal

Match Facts (Courtesy via Opta)

  • Swansea have lost three of their last four home matches against Arsenal in the Premier League (W1).
  • The Gunners have never failed to score in five previous Premier League games at the Liberty Stadium (10 goals, two per game on average).
  • Swansea have won just 15 points from their 20 games this season; their worst return at this stage of a Premier League season. 71% of the teams with 15 points of fewer after 20 PL games were relegated (25/35).
  • After a run of 12 away games without a defeat, Arsenal are winless in their last three on the road in the top-flight (D1 L2).
  • The Gunners have conceded in each of their last six Premier League away matches; their longest run without a clean sheet since May 2011 (7 games).
  • Olivier Giroud has scored 12 goals from his last 17 shots on target in all competitions.
  • French striker Giroud has scored in each of his last eight starts for Arsenal in all competitions, netting 10 goals in total.
  • Alexis Sanchez has scored or assisted 30 goals in his last 31 Premier League appearances (20 goals, 10 assists).
  • Swansea have lost 12 of the 14 Premier League games this season in which they conceded the first goal (W1 D1).
  • No side has netted the opening goal in more PL matches this season than Arsenal (14), although they’ve lost three of those games – only Southampton (4) have more defeats.
  • No Premier League team has scored more headed goals this season than Arsenal (11 – level with WBA)



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