When it comes to writing a pre-match I normally walk up to my computer like a boxer at a weigh-in. I stare down the opposition team, flare my nostrils, I might even say a few things about their mothers. Swansea, however, they are different…I admire them. Unlike promoted teams of histories past, Swansea has come into the league ready to play attractive football. They really have been a breath of fresh air, but I and Arsenal need to roll up our sleeves and get nasty for this one.
We sit 7th in the table with 21 points (12 behind league leaders Man U), Swansea sit in 8th position on 20 points. A win in this one could see us jump into 5th spot as Everton and Tottenham face tough away fixtures against ManchesterCity and Fulham.
New boy Michael Laudrup has picked up where Brendon Rodgers left off and really turned this squad into a dangerous team. Whilst our fans appear divided on Arsene: some want him out the door; others know he can work his magic again.
Missing in Action:
Arsenal: Diaby (thigh), Kozzer (groin) is most likely out until Christmas, Santos (abdominal strain) is still out; Sagna (foot), Podolski (illness), and Walcott (shoulder) all face fitness tests. Expect Sagna to miss this one.
Swansea: Thankfully Spanish international Pablo Hernandez misses this one with a thigh injury. He has formed a strong partnership with Michu so his absence will help our cause considerably. Graham (illness) and Taylor are also out.
Arsenal’s new mystery signing isn’t likely to start the game but we could see him make a sub appearance. It’ll be interesting to see how he settles in with his new team mates. I’ve managed to track down some footage of him, here you go:
Jokes aside I’m very happy this Rosicky is back; he came back and sparked our midfield back to life. Can he do it again this season? I think he can! This is what he is capable of:
I expect us to revert back to the 4-3-3 formation with Podolski coming back into the left position. The rest speaks for itself really, Jenks in for Sagna and Gibbs slotting into the left back position.
Last time we met it was not a pretty match. An impressive Swansea outplayed us all over the pitch thanks to now Liverpool midfielder Allen, and fast wingers Dyer and Sinclair. Djourou and Miquel were our fullbacks and they were always in for a tough match. Ramsey conceded a questionable penalty after Dyer ran into his leg. Ramsey was also responsible for another goal after he was caught out in possession; this led to many fans using him as a scapegoat…something he’s struggled to shake off ever since. After drawing level in the 69th minute, Swansea scored a minute later to eventually go on their way to a 3-2 victory.
In the corresponding fixture last season Arsenal won 1-0 thanks to a Vorm mistake. Vorm rolled the ball out to his defender Rangel, who at the time was unaware of Vorm’s decision – the ball bounced off his legs and straight to Arshavin, who slotted home from an acute angle.
Form Guide: Arsenal: DDWWD Swansea: WDWDD
Coming off consecutive draws we are either in trouble or slowly clawing our way back into form (depending on which fan you speak to). We are divided, but personally I think we are on the up. Yes, there is cause for concern but with a few adjustments I think we can be a force once again. Arsenal haven’t lost in six matches and appear to be finding the defensive stability it showed earlier in the season.
Swansea has only lost one in nine matches and is once again showing they belong in the premier league. They’ve recently beaten Newcastle away, and West Brom at home, and drawn against Chelsea and Liverpool…good form in anyone’s eyes. It’s the sort of form that sends GLIC behind the sofa, Terry talking to his pigeon whilst rocking in his chair in the loft, RA crunching numbers or shouting words most of us think is a foreign language, VCC into a dusting and sweeping frenzy, Rocky shouting out expletives at the top of Mount Logan, Henry giggling uncontrollably, Herb shaking his fist wildly at Arsene, TA carving out new clogs to control the nerves, and me…peeping through a small crack in the doona, whilst I cower on the sofa. But hopefully our nerves are brushed aside early on.
One to Watch:
Giroud is my one to watch in this one. He has been left isolated in the last two matches thanks to ineffectual wing play. It won’t happen again and I expect him to get on the board in this one and make the Swansea defenders miserable all game. This season we have seen just what he is capable of with his head, however, last season he scored most of his 19 goals with his feet, so expect a lot more to come from this Frenchman.
Ahhhhhh-Michu!!! Dennis bless you! (I’ll grab my coat!) Michu has taken the league by storm so far scoring 9 goals in 14 matches. Signed as a midfielder for a lowly 2 million he has stepped into the striker’s role rather effortlessly; he must be watched over carefully!
Our fullbacks are going to have their hands full in this one, as they face the dangerous Dyer and Routledge. Routledge is coming off a brace midweek and has scored four times thus far; Dyer on the other hand caused all sorts of problems for us last season. Although he has cut off all of his locks, he is by no means suffering from Samson-syndrome!
Gibbs has just come back from injury so two games in a few days is really going to test his fitness level. Jenkinson may well have to step up for this one given Sagna is a major doubt after suffering a knock to his foot against Everton. Our two young fullbacks will be tested in this one, it’ll be a great learning curve and I expect them both to come out on top.
I’m giving the finger this week to our fitness guru Tony Colbert! He joined Arsenal in July of 1998 as head of fitness and conditioning. Once upon a time our fitness was top notch, we ran over the top of other teams on a regular basis. Nowadays if a team parks the bus we are less inclined to break them down and we look just as fatigued. My biggest worry is players suffering soft tissue injuries early on in games or just after coming onto the field; IT SHOULD NOT HAPPEN!!! The warm up routine should be vigorous and prepare the body for the game ahead. Look at boxers for instance, they come out sweating before a fight, it is an art form! Koscielny is now out until Christmas, Diaby has a thigh strain that has kept him out for most likely the whole season, Ox a couple of weeks ago hurt his hip straight off the bat. My biggest worry is Colbert falling behind the game, not to mention he only has a Master’s degree; at this level I’d expect a PHD at the very least! Sports Science and strength/conditioning are forever evolving, perhaps fresh ideas will lift our conditioning allowing us to run out games, or better yet…IMPLEMENT A BLOODY PRESS!
Also, Stan Kroenke! A $132.5 million dollar ranch in Montana…really??? You greedy scoundrel. How about a cheeky couple of million thrown into our transfer war chest, after all you’ve probably got it tucked into your sock!
Pre-Match pat on the back:
My pat on the back goes to all the level headed Arsenal supporters out there. Yes everything isn’t hunky dory at the moment but it is not the end of the world. The apocalypse has not come, and even if the four horsemen Conquest, War, Famine, and Death came I’m sure Jack, Frimpong, Vermaelen, and Arteta would send them packing (Arteta could do it without putting one strand of hair out of place). We may not be world beaters currently but we will be soon enough. Hang in there and keep fighting the good fight!
This week I am debuting a new section to the pre-match. ‘Ask the opposition’ will show questions and answers by supporters from other blogs just to get their insight on the match. So let’s get a little bit of friendly banter going shall we!
This week the answers were kindly provided by Steve and Kevin, both Swansea supporters.
1) What’s your take on the Arsene Wenger situation (should he continue or should he be replaced)?
Steve: I think you should stick with Wenger, as a fan of a small club who’ve come from the brink of extinction to where we are today, I can appreciate the way Arsenal handle the finances. In a couple of years’ time, you’ll be one of the only clubs in the country to be debt free, owning a state of the art stadium and still competing at the top. I think patience in your stability can see you go on to dominate while a lot of clubs go to the wall.
Kevin: Whilst I imagine some fans may want a change of manager and a new era following Arsene Wenger’s, I do wonder whether a new manager would make you any better than you are now. Sacking Wenger would mean you would lose that consistency with managers that are so rare in the game these days. We Swans fans know all about a constant turnover of managers and while it hasn’t affected us one bit, it may not be the same for you. The departure of Robin van Persie obviously hasn’t helped your cause either and he was always going to be almost impossible to replace in the current market. If I was an Arsenal fan I would just get behind the manager and his players as I’d be shocked if Wenger was sacked anytime soon.
2) Who has been Swansea’s best player so far this season? What is he capable of?
Steve: The obvious player of our season for me to go for would obviously be Michu as he’s scoring for fun, but I’m going to go off the wall and say Hernandez (unfortunately he’s out tomorrow). I can see him going on to be massive for us. His vision is like nothing I’ve seen before in a Swansea shirt. When he first came in, he seemed to struggle a bit, but looking back now I think it was more a case that the rest of the team struggled to keep up with him and his little dinks forward.
Kevin: Michu is getting all of the credit for his goals and rightly so, but you can’t ignore the likes of Wayne Routledge and Pablo Hernandez who are consistently providing the assists for Michu, who’s goal tally has now increased to 9. Michu is not just a goalscorer, far from it. His work rate is excellent, he battles brilliantly to win possession and his finishing and desire to score goals is exceptional. It says it all when he was disappointed to score only 1 of the three chances he had at Newcastle a fortnight ago. Pablo Hernandez and Wayne Routledge are also up there with our best performers in recent weeks. Both offer something a little different. Routledge has pace to beat his marker while Hernandez is a tricky player – both have an eye for goal.
3) What formations and tactics are you most likely to employ in this match?
Steve: We generally play with a lone striker with Michu in the hole. Wednesday, against West brom, we had Michu up front with Routeledge in the hole and it worked well. Tomorrow though, with Hernandez out, I’d expect Routeledge to switch back to the wing with De Guzman to step in behind Michu.
Kevin: Unlike last season under Brendan Rodgers when it would be easy to tell you the tactics as it never changed game by game. Laudrup likes to change it up slightly. While we keep to the same 4-3-3 attacking formation, he’ll change the wingers. He often alternates between Routledge and Dyer on the right. Against West Brom on Wednesday, his side had far more width, unlike in previous games where the wingers were more central to link up with the attackers rather than the fullbacks. The decision to set up his wide with more width paid off brilliantly as they produced probably their best 45-minutes of football since their Premier League debut last year.
4) What position/player is your weakest link?
Steve: Difficult to pick a weak link to be honest as we’re back to playing as a team for each other, which was maybe lacking a couple of weeks ago. If I had to pick anyone though I’d have to say maybe young Ben Davies at left back due to his lack of experience. He’s done brilliantly in his debut season though, stepping up from the youth because of Taylor’s injury early in the season.
Kevin: There’s probably not a particular player that is a weak link at the moment. It would be harsh on de Guzman to say he is, and he doesn’t offer as much as his fellow midfielders and was dropped in midweek. We can concede some soft goals now and then which doesn’t help our cause, but right now we’re playing the best football we’ve seen in a long time. We suffered a drop in form after a good start but it’s back up there and the Swans will be as confident as ever on Saturday.
5) Which Arsenal player would you love in your team and why?
Steve: Sorry, no room for any Arsenal players among the super Swans J
Kevin: I think Cazorla would fit in well with our Spanish contingent in the squad! I wouldn’t mind one of your centre backs too as Mertesacker seems to have improved a lot this season and then there’s Vermaelen too. We could do with another centre back as cover.
6) What is your match prediction?
Steve: I fancy us to get something and I predict a few goals as neither defence have been particularly brilliant this season so far 2-2.
Kevin: It should be an entertaining game as both teams like to play attractive football but I wonder whether or not they’ll cancel each other like Swansea and Liverpool did last week, as they played out a goalless draw. There might be goals in this one though, as Arsenal clearly can score at home after the 5 they put past arch rivals Spurs, but then again they also struggled against QPR. A score draw would be a great result for us and would keep our unbeaten run going.
This is really going to be a tough one. It is imperative we keep our width in this one. Walcott wants to play centrally, Podolski wants to be the main striker, but it’s all causing too much problems, and it needs to be sorted out quickly! If we guard the dangerous Michu, and quell Swansea’s quick breaks I think we’ll snatch this one late…2-1 to the good guys!
Written by: Oz Gunner.