Such is the nature of Arsenal’s stop start season, that they once again find themselves on a confidence building mission following Tuesday night’s 3 goal capitulation to an Anderlecht side that have won one of their last eight games.
Arsenal’s game is one that relies on confidence to be effective to a greater extent than most other sides in my opinion. So the blow of Tuesday night may well see a subconsciously cautious Arsenal side.
There again, Arsene Wenger was keen to emphasise the positives, that the team found it easy enough to score three times themselves against the Belgians and, prior to the last fortnight, it was actually Arsenal’s attacking fluency that caused the most concern.
Swansea meanwhile have enjoyed a good season to date, with the board’s faith in rookie manager Gary Monk not looking misplaced as yet. That said, the fixture list becomes a little less forgiving, with Arsenal and Manchester City on the immediate horizon. The Swans have lost to Chelsea and Southampton this season, the latter the only side to defeat them at home in 2014-15 thus far.
The Gunners found their full backs were overrun by the Belgians on Tuesday. The manager has instructed his fullbacks to push on of late, which explains the twin deployment of Arteta and Flamini in the centre of midfield. Without both, Anderlecht quickly sussed that Gibbs and Chambers would be easy to expose.
Wenger won’t have the chance to pick Flamini and Arteta together on Sunday due to an injury to the Spaniard. Whomever plays alongside Flamini is going to have to be disciplined, because Gary Monk will have observed Anderlecht’s strategy very well.
Arsene Wenger wants his side to learn the lessons of Tuesday night and take them into the game at Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
Wenger told Arsenal.com, ‘It`s always good to watch a game again because our second-half performance was not that bad, but we lost urgency and maybe we moved a little bit from team targets to individual targets.
‘We were winning 3-0 and maybe they thought ‘I want to score my goal`. A team is mature when, regardless of what the score is, they continue to respect the basics of the game, the love of the game and the urgency of defending together.
‘As soon as you lose that, you can win sometimes and not be punished, but you can be punished. On that occasion we were punished.
‘We are of course disappointed with the result because when you are at home, to [concede three goals] looks terrible. But I would like to highlight that we have a dynamic in the team that is very positive.
‘Swansea have had a good stability for years now,’ added the Arsenal manager. ‘They have a way to play out from the back, that is of high technical quality. When you go to Swansea, you know you have a difficult place to go to. But if we keep our way to play, I think we have a good chance to win the game.’
Meanwhile, Swans boss Gary Monk believes ex Arsenal goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski is benefiting from the faith shown in him by the Welsh club.
‘Lukasz just needed a bit of faith shown in him and right now, he is up with the best in the league.
“He doesn`t lack for confidence but he needed someone to give him a run of games, a chance and to feel like a No.1.
‘He is not someone who is motivated by money, he just wants to play and that`s why he came here.
“We`ve given them that and he has shown what a good player he is with five clean sheets in ten games.’
Swansea City Team News:
Swansea will be without Jonjo Shelvey, who serves a one match suspension after his red card against Leicester City last week. Federico Fernandez is also a doubt.
Leon Britton (knee), Jordi Almat (knee), Rory Donnelly (ankle), Jazz Richards (knee) and Diego Tiendalli (groin) are out.
Swansea City (from); Fabianski, Taylor, Ki, Williams(c), Bony, Emnes, Dyer, Carroll, Routledge, Gomis, Montero, Rangel, Sigurdsson, Tremmel, Bartley, Sheehan, Kingsley, Barrow.
Player to watch: Gylfi Sigurdsson
The Icelandic international has returned to the Liberty Stadium after a mediocre spell with Spurs. At Tottenham he was effectively Gareth Bale’s butler, plugging gaps left by the Welshman as he was given license to roam.
At Swansea, Sigurdsson is once again an important part of the creative process for Swansea. Formerly there was a suspicion that Sigurdsson used to take too many pot shots, even if his long range shooting is a threat.
He appears to have moderated his game and his intelligence in finding space has become a real feature of Monk’s Swansea. Sigurdsson has become a silent killer.
Arsene Wenger had this to say about him, ”Maybe he [is doing well at Swansea because he] feels he has the confidence and the time needed to express himself. At Tottenham he [might have] felt a bit more under stress, a bit more under the need to perform quickly. That can explain it.’
Arsenal Team News:
Arsenal are without captain Mikel Arteta, who has a hamstring strain. But Jack Wilshere returns having missed the last three games through suspension, a knee problem and a virus respectively.
Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Mesut Özil (knee), Olivier Giroud (ankle), David Ospina (thigh) and Abou Diaby will not feature.
Arsenal (from); Szczesny, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Rosicky, Arteta(c), Podolski, Walcott, Chamberlain, Ramsey, Alexis, Monreal, S.Cazorla, Flamini, Chambers, Sanogo, Welbeck, Martinez, Campbell, Bellerin.
Player to watch: Alex Oxlade Chamberlain
Chamberlain has been given a run in the side of late, largely due to Walcott’s injury and the decision to give Alexis Sanchez a central berth.
Chamberlain offers attributes not replicated in other areas of the squad, but he knows that Theo Walcott is closely to being fit enough to start now. He’ll want to continue his run in the side.
His goal on Tuesday was a very promising suggestion that he is committed to becoming more dangerous in the final third- which is honestly the only quality where Walcott has the edge over Chamberlain.
Chamberlain and Cazorla swapped flanks constantly on Tuesday and the Ox’s brilliantly taken effort involved a display of power, pace and an Henry-esque finish. If he can make that a more regular occurrence, it’s hard to see on what grounds he wouldn’t be considered first choice.
Match Facts & Stats
In the six Premier League games between Arsenal and Swansea, there have been 17 goals between them.
The two sides have met eight times since Swansea`s promotion to the Premier League, six times in the league and twice in the FA Cup. Arsenal have won four matches, with Swansea winning two.
Arsenal are unbeaten in the last five meetings in all competitions since a 2-0 home defeat in December 2012.
Only Chelsea and Southampton have earned more points at home than Swansea’s tally of 10 prior to the weekend fixtures.
The Swans have had a league-high three players sent off this season.
The Gunners have won successive league games for the first time this season.
They have scored five 90th-minute goals this season, more than any other team in the Premier League.
Phil Dowd referees the match.
I think a draw is the most likely result here. 1-1. Bony for Swansea and Welbeck for Arsenal.
Arsenal play Manchester United at home one week next Saturday at 5.30pm. Swansea are away at Manchester City at 3pm on the same day.