Swansea away today and a chance to keep pace/claw back some points on those above us in the table. The importance of the game can’t be understated. The FA Cup game against Leeds provided us a fantastic moment and a talking point/feel-good factor that lasted all week, but at the same time seemed a bit surreal.
This is back to the nuts and bolts of it though, a tough away game against a team who are going to provide a real test today. At home Swansea have only lost once in ten games (a 1-0 defeat to Man United), conceded only four goals, held Sp*rs to a 1-1 and play with real style. They attack, playing with two traditional, zippy wingers.
Ordinarily those wingers would test the orthodox full backs of any side. Today, all going well, they’ll be faced with two centre-halves being played out of position. I say all going well because there are still doubts over Mertesacker due to illness. Hopefully he’ll be fine but if not you have to think Djourou will partner Koscielny while youngster Nico Yennaris could be throw in at right back. The alternative is to leave Djourou out there and re-work the Squiscienly axis.
Whoever we have at full back will need the protection of the player in front of him. Three in midfield allows a certain amount of cover but Walcott, on the right, and whoever he selects on the left, will have to be thoroughly disciplined. I suspect he’ll play Arshavin on the left but he might well consider using Benayoun there if he feels Miquel needs more help because of the way Swansea are set up.
Still, we know that Arsene focuses primarily on his own team. He rarely sets us up to counter the opposition, trusting that if his players can play the way he wants them to play then that will negate any threat. I do feel this game will hinge on the midfield, our triumvurate has been effective, hard working, solid but a bit less threatening than we might like.
Aaron Ramsey in particular, you get the sense there’s something of a finger in the dam when it comes to goals and once he bangs on in they might start flowing with a bit more regularity. Today would be a nice day to do that. Up front Robin van Persie returns from his mini-holiday where he was off meeting Madonna (I think) so he should be fresh and ready and while it would be nice to see goals coming from elsewhere I wouldn’t complain if they came from his tasty left foot either.
From the bench we’ve got Thierry Henry, who is certainly capable of causing some problems, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain showed against Leeds that’s he’s now ready to start making an impact in the Premier League. It might well be from the bench for the next little while but he’s adventurous, unafraid and provides something a little bit different to any of the other options we have right now.
Arsene talks about wanting to ‘bounce back quickly’ from the Fulham game. That was nearly two weeks ago now and previous to that we had been on an excellent run of form. That’s quickly forgotten in the wake of any defeat, let alone one as painful and shambolic as that one, and the only way to get people back onside is by winning games and winning them consistently.
Today will be tough, no doubt about it. Swansea have nothing to lose, their style causes problems to all the teams they play, but perhaps that style might suit Arsenal more than most. Where we tend to struggle is against teams whose main aim is defending and trying to nick a goal on the break. Today we’ll have two teams who will go for it and hopefully our experience and maturity in this league will give us the edge.
Remember, it was a massive error from the Swansea keeper, along with a sublime Arshavin finish, which won the game for us at home. Another goal or two would be nice but I’d take the same again today. Fingers crossed.
In other news, Arsene says he doesn’t like the January transfer window. ‘Oh, there’s a surprise!’, says everyone. He says either leave it open all season long or close it fully after the summer window, which I think makes a lot more sense. And his objection isn’t to do with spending money – those who suggest otherwise should remember that our two biggest transfer deals ever took place in the January window (Reyes and Arshavin). Instead he’s concerned about the effect it has on players:
Everybody becomes nervous November until January. Then players maybe think, ‘if I don’t play then I will leave in January’. They are already less committed to the cause, it gives them an opening.
And if the transfer window were closed:
You had no other option but to fight for your place. There is not a position where the players have a quick and easy way out if it is difficult.
Except that situation kicks in on Feb 1st, but that’s close enough to the summer for players whose minds are elsewhere to wander further. Of course this overlooks the fact that we’ve never had a situation where the window was fully closed for a season. Personally, I’d be in favour of closing it after the summer. It could benefit young players at clubs who might get chances they wouldn’t get otherwise, and it’d mean clubs would have to work harder and with more thought on their summer business, which, for us, might not be a bad thing at all.
And that’s about that. We’ll have full live blog coverage of the game later on, check back for that post or bookmark the default live blog page.
And remember, we’ve teamed up with Paddy Power for all your fluttering needs. Today there’s a money back special: If Robin van Persie scores the last goal in this game Paddy Power will refund all losing 1st/last goalscorer, correct score & scorecast singles on the match.
Tempting enough, but Thierry Henry to score the only goal of the game (0-1 Arsenal) at 20/1 tempted me enough for a tenner. And remember, you can get up to a £50 free bet when you register. Click here to register with Paddy Power.
Right then, time for breakfast, catch you for the game later.