It’s a trip to Swansea today, our second away fixture of the week, and a game against a team who have proved challenging every time we’ve played them in recent seasons.
We won here last season, goals from Monreal and Gervinho enough to take the points, but it was one of those games that could have gone either way. Despite the fact that both teams play attacking, possession football I don’t think it’ll be one of those where we cancel each other out, and it could well be the defences that make the difference.
Arsene Wenger has some decisions to make about his team. Under normal circumstances you’d think Serge Gnabry would continue in place of Theo Walcott but he did 120 gruelling minutes in midweek and I’d be surprised to see him out there today. He could barely walk at the end of the game, clearly suffering from the physical demands, so it leaves the manager with something to ponder there.
On this week’s Arsecast, Tim Stillman suggested he could double up on the left with Gibbs and Monreal, which is certainly an option, but he could also play both Arteta and Flamini in midfield, pushing Wilshere to the left and using Ozil from the right hand side. I don’t see Miyaichi as a Premier League starter just yet and like Gnabry he did the full shift on Wednesday night. Beyond that we don’t have any other realistic options.
The likes of Ramsey (in spite of a thigh problem with Wenger calling him a ‘tough boy’), Ozil, Sagna, Koscielny, Giroud and Gibbs will all come back into the side, and should sort out the slightly lop-sided nature of the team that we saw on Wednesday. The youth, inexperience and unfamiliarity between some of the players meant that things rarely clicked in the opposition half against West Brom.
These guys know each other well, there are good relationships and, obviously, there’s a difference in quality which should make things somewhat easier. What’s positive is that 4 of the back 5 changed on Wednesday, plus the ‘defensive midfielder’, and we still looked solid. It shows that this part of the team, the one that provides the platform for those ahead to go and play, isn’t just the domain of the first choice players.
Our recent form, stretching back to last season, has been built on ensuring things are done right at the back and we’ve added more attacking verve this time around. As for our opponents, we know their strengths. They like the ball, they get wide to good effect, and in Michu they have a player who has hurt us before. If some thought last season was something of a fluke, he’s got 5 goals already this season, picking up where he left off.
But we showed against Stoke that even when a team has plenty of the ball we’re well able to cope. I think Swansea can do a lot more with than it that Stoke, still beset with the nature of Pulis, ever could so they’ll provide a much sterner challenge but one I think we’re able for. Ahead of the game, the boss said:
We prepare ourselves with a very focused attitude because we know this is a very important game for us. We know that on Saturday, once again, we will face a team with quality.
Our record away from home has been fantastic, as everybody knows, and today will be another big challenge. There’s always the worry that fatigue will kick in due to the small size of the squad, but hopefully those in the top half of the pitch will have gotten enough rest in midweek to recharge their batteries properly.
If we can continue to play the way we have then there’s no reason why we can’t take three points today. I have a sneaky feeling we might see a draw, but maybe today would be a nice day for Ozil to get his first Arsenal goal. I’m having three and sixpence on that, I think.
In other news, well, there isn’t much. Other than Arsene Wenger saying he’d like to be immortal. The reality is that when things are going smoothly, there are fewer stories. Perhaps a bad thing when you have to write about Arsenal ever day, but on the contrary it’s a welcome pleasure.
Kick off today is 5.30pm and as always we’ll have full live blog coverage for you. You can follow the game on your phone, computer, tablet or anything else. Simply bookmark our default live blog page, or check back later for a post with all the details.
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Right, that’s it for now. Here’s to a good performance and another win. Till later.