Arsenal will be hoping to return to the top 4 with a win against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. The Gunners last outing in the Premiership was a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Fulham and they will be looking to turn things around. Swansea have only conceded 4 goals at home this season so far and only United have escaped with the full 3 points so things will be tricky for the North London side.
Van Persie will return to the starting XI after being rested for the Leeds match in which Arsenal’s wastefulness in front of goal was under scrutiny. With 17 goals so far this term and one of the best shooting accuracies with 57%, Arsenal fans will be hoping they don’t have to witness the same number of chances go begging as did on Monday night. Of course the big news of the tie will be Thierry Henry’s return to the Premiership after a 5 year absence. Wenger has admitted he is toying with the idea of playing him alongside Van Persie, with the only other option on the left wing being Andrei Arshavin whose stats don’t make for impressive reading when compared to the absent Ivorian, Gervinho.
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Swansea’s form belies the fact that they are a newly promoted side. Their last home game was a 1-1 draw with high flying Tottenham and they’ve won two on the trot since then. Their quality on the wings will certainly be a test for Arsenal, with Djourou likely to start at right-back and the young Ignasi Miquel at left-back. With 26% of the Swans passes aimed out to the right flank, Miquel will need a lot of protection from whoever Wenger opts to start at left-wing and Henry’s current lack of match fitness might play a part in his decision.
One major influence that Arsenal have missed at this time of year in past seasons is the presence of Alex Song. Cameroon’s failure to qualify for the African Cup of Nations means Arsenal’s current midfield trio will remain undisturbed as they continue to build up a fascinating understanding.
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Song’s influence on the team cannot be understated and his attacking dimension this season has added a new prong to Arsenal’s attack with someone of the Yaya Toure mould, strong yet nimble on the ball. Song’s defensive work will be vital against Swansea however to protect a makeshift back four so decimated by injuries that Sebastian Squillaci may well get his first Premier League start this season.
This will be an interesting challenge for the Gunners, having only managed an average of one goal a game in their last 7 outings, against a Swansea side that will no doubt fancy their chances. Rogers has the novelty of nearly an entirely fit squad to pick from and the news that Josh McEachran will be joining them next week is sure to delight him. With Arsenal possibly dropping 12 points behind Tottenham come kick-off, Wenger is sure to go all-out for three points, however, a draw would be an unsurprising result.