After the disappointment of going out of the European Cup at the hands of Bayern Munich despite coming within one goal of qualification to the Quarter Finals, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal side have to pick themselves up once more this season for the tough trip to this year’s Carling Cup winners Swansea City who have caused Arsenal sizeable difficulties on the three occasions the two sides have met thus far this campaign with player of the season Michu having already registered three goals against the Gunners.
Arsene Wenger will have taken much confidence from the midweek trip to Bavaria with his charges earning a 2-0 win over arguably one of the favourites to win Europe’s top prize this year, albeit Bayern Munich were playing at a level which could easily and be described as lacklustre with the German’s as they so often have, believing their work to be already complete following their comprehensive 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium a fortnight ago. However this confidence must not transcend into complacency with Arsenal having already fallen victim to Michael Laudrup’s quick passing almost Arsenal-esque style of play once this season in the 2-0 defeat at the Emirates in December and Wenger must make sure his defenders are prepared to cope with the threat Michu will undoubtedly provide tomorrow afternoon.
Swansea now find themselves in a bit of a slump in comparison to the loftily high standards they set for themselves earlier in the campaign, having won just two of their last five league matches, this degree of inconsistency within their league form has however come at the time when the added pressure of fixture congestion that comes with a long cup run can really effect a squads fitness and consequently their performances. Arsenal comparatively are in a great run of form with the Gunners, prior to last Sunday’s 2-1 derby defeat at White Hart Lane, having gone unbeaten in the Premier League since January 21st.
Following Arsenal’s midweek half-triumph in Munich, experienced midfield Mikel Arteta has issued a rallying call to the rest of the troops encouraging them to put their continental disappointment to the back of their minds and full focus all energy on finishing in the top four to qualify for next season’s European Cup, Arteta also guarded his Arsenal teammates of the dangers of heading into Saturday’s fixture with Swansea in the wrong frame of mind “On Saturday, if we are not at it, we are going to face a really difficult team
which is Swansea away from home.”
Arsenal head into tomorrow’s match at the Liberty Stadium with Arsene Wenger warning his players that they must all fight for their place in the team, these words rang true midweek as Thomas Vermaelen was axed for the trip to Bayern Munich following a poor performance against Tottenham Hotspur where his error contributed to Tottenham’s second and winning goal. Per Mertesacker, after impressing back on home soil midweek, is likely to keep his place in the starting eleven against Swansea, along with goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski who is also likely to start after an impressive performance against Bayern with the Polish goalkeeper making a number of important saves on the night.
This will also make it an easier decision for Wenger to continue Wojciech Szczesny’s extended period of ‘mental rest’ after a number of errors over the current campaign. Kieran Gibbs trained with Arsenal this morning although it is expected he will start from the bench tomorrow with Nacho Monreal returning to the left back position.
Swansea head into the Arsenal game with Michael Laudrup stating “I think they [Arsenal] come out of the Bayern game better than they went into it.” The Dane in saying this is ensuring his team don’t enter the fixture with any preconceptions about the Arsenal side they are facing. Young left-back Neil Taylor continued his fantastic recovery from the horrific broken ankle he suffered early on the season by featuring in Swansea’s U21 match against QPR this week however it is expected he will miss tomorrow’s match with Arsenal with the Welsh international still not ready to return to Premier League football. After picking up a hip injury in the defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend Michael Laudrup is hopeful Leon Britton will be fit to return to face Arsenal, Luke Moore is also expected to return to the side following his layoff through injury. Fan favourite Chico Flores will also yet again be unavailable for selection due to his ongoing ankle problems.
- Swansea have emerged victorious on the last two occasions the Swans and the Gunners have met in the Premier League with the wins coming this season at the Emirates and last season at the Liberty Stadium.
- Since Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in October 1996, Swansea City have had thirteen managers in charge at the club including Michael Laudrup.
- With victory tomorrow Swansea can add Arsenal to the list of teams they have done the double over so far this season which includes Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers.
With Jack Wilshere out for the next three weeks at a minimum, much of Arsenal’s creativity now depends, as it has done for much of this season, on Santi Cazorla. After a blistering start to the campaign Cazorla has become somewhat fatigued and his influence upon games has decreased following the Christmas period however the former Malaga and Villarreal man has recently returned to form having dazzled fans and media alike with his performances in February and early March. Wenger will be hoping Cazorla will continue this run of form which coincided with Arsenal’s best run in the League this season into tomorrow’s trip to Wales with the Spaniard sitting in the hole just behind Olivier Giroud having the potential to cause Swansea’s defence a whole host of problems with Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott on either wing to support him. Whilst we have seen great attacking play from Swansea this season at times their defence has lacked coherence and strength which has led to the Swans conceding very poor goals with prime reference being made to their fixture at Anfield the Sunday before their Carling Cup final triumph, if Arsenal catch Swansea on a day such as that tomorrow then it could well be to quote Gary Neville “bingo time” for Santi Cazorla with the quick footed Spaniard having the potential to put a disorientated and poorly organised defence to the sword.
A rather obvious choice but you just cannot look past a man who has already put three goals past Arsenal already this season when considering who Swansea’s key player will be tomorrow. Michu dubbed by the media as signing of the season has slowed down in terms of goal scoring in recent games having not scored a league goal for a month since his brace against Queens Park Rangers on February 9th however Arsenal will still need to be wary of the threat Michu possesses.
With Michu’s main strength being running onto a through pass played by one of Swansea’s more gifted ball players such as Britton or de Guzman there may be no better opponent to play against than Arsenal with their main problem in defence as seen at White Hart Lane last week is keeping a stable and aware defensive line once they have pushed up further out of their own half. Spurs twice took advantage of this last weekend with their passing through Arsenal’s flatfooted last line of defence to a man running in behind and it is expected Swansea will do the same and if Arsenal do not defend this sort of passing better than Michu may well score against Arsenal yet again this season.
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