Swansea vs Arsenal – Preview


Arsenal travel to Wales to take on Swansea this weekend in what is now a huge game in their season. In fact every game from now until the end of the campaign can be considered a huge one for Arsenal as they hope to secure at least 4th spot and therefore a place in the Champions League in the 2013/14 season.

Team News: The hosts could see former Arsenal trainee Leon Britton return from injury as well as Luke Moore. Chico Flores and Kemy Agustein will miss out due to injury though.

When Arsenal travelled to Swansea in January for an FA Cup 3rd round tie, their goalscorers were Lukas Podolski and Kieran Gibbs. Podolski is definitely out and Gibbs could miss this game too. Nacho Monreal is expected to start at left-back for the Gunners after missing the trip to Munich in the Champions League because he was cup-tied.

Nacho Monreal is expected to start at left-back after missing the game against Bayern Munich in midweek.

Bacary Sagna is still out, so Carl Jenkinson will start at right-back and Arsenal will of course be without Jack Wilshere as well, a big loss to any team.

There are 10 games left in Arsenal’s season. Their hopes in the domestic cups went when they suffered humiliating defeats to Bradford and Blackburn. Bayern Munich did all the damage in the first leg of the Champions League tie. Despite a great effort in Munich, Arsenal came up one goal short. So now Arsenal have just one goal. To qualify for the Champions League next season. Since moving to the Emirates in 2006, that has been Arsenal’s main objective according to Arsene Wenger. Failure to do so this year would see this go down as Arsenal’s worst season under Wenger.

They are currently 5 points behind Chelsea who occupy the 4th and final Champions League spot. North London rivals Tottenham are currently 7 points ahead of the Gunners and are in 3rd place. However, Tottenham have played one more game than Arsenal so there will be a game in hand where Arsenal could close the gap.

Both Chelsea and Tottenham progressed in the Europa League last night in rather unconvincing fashion. Tottenham were 3-0 up from the first leg but forced to play an extra half an hour against Inter Milan and Chelsea beat Steaua Bucharest 3-1 to go through 3-2 on aggregate. With Tottenham nearly blowing their advantage in Milan as well as last weekend’s collapse away to Liverpool, it will give Gunners fans some hope that Spurs could fall apart at this stage of the season once again. They have a history of doing so. Add the fact that Arsenal will be feeling positive about their win in Munich, despite going out of Europe, maybe, just maybe, there is a chance.

The two teams above Arsenal have other distractions. Chelsea have a Europa League quarter-final with Russian side Rubin Kazan as well as an FA Cup quarter-final replay with Manchester United and possible semi-final / Final. Tottenham still have the Europa League and will face Swiss side FC Basel. Arsenal simply have qualifying for the Champions League. Whilst yes, I would like to be in the FA Cup and Champions League still, the distractions that both Tottenham and Chelsea may have from playing in these cups may help Arsenal’s cause when trying to qualify for the Champions League next season.

The simple fact is that Arsenal need to start winning games now. They can’t afford to drop many points between now and the end of the season. There’s already a gap and it could get out of reach if they don’t start winning games soon.

Swansea away will be a difficult game. Michu will be Arsenal’s biggest problem I am sure. Arsenal have already played Swansea three times this season. Twice at home and once away. They suffered a defeat in December due to two late Michu goals in the reverse fixture in the league. They very nearly won away from home in the FA Cup before a late equaliser forced a replay at the Emirates. The Gunners were then the ones that scored late on as Jack Wilshere sent them through to the 4th round with a 1-0 win.

It’s fair to say it’s a mixed bag. Won one, drawn one and lost one. So predicting this will be difficult. If Arsenal can contain Swansea’s main threat Michu then they can win. They will have to defend like the did in midweek against Bayern. If their display in the FA Cup in January is anything to go by, winning at Swansea is something Arsenal are capable of. They were oh so close to doing it and put in a good display. A tighter defence and Arsenal would have won.

It is vital that Arsenal find a way to stop Michu this weekend.

As mentioned in my Munich report, I want the same defence that started against Bayern playing against Swansea. They earned the shirt this weekend. Every one of them did. If that makes Thomas Vermaelen or Wojciech Szczesny unhappy then so be it. They haven’t been good enough this year and should have both been dropped weeks ago in my opinion. They’ll have to win back the shirt. There’s no harm in good competition. It’s what makes a team good.

I believe Arsenal can win this weekend. I also believe they can qualify for the top four now. They will need to build on Bayern though, so more of the same please boys.