Arsenal: Opposition spotlight – Swansea City

SWANSEA, WALES - OCTOBER 14: Paul Clement, Manager of Swansea City looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Huddersfield Town at Liberty Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
SWANSEA, WALES - OCTOBER 14: Paul Clement, Manager of Swansea City looks on during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Huddersfield Town at Liberty Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images) /

Swansea City are the visitors to the Emirates this weekend, here’s a breakdown of what Arsenal can expect from the South Wales side.

Arsenal return to Premier League action to face Swansea City at the Emirates, so let’s talk about the visiting opposition.

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I’ve openly discussed my relationship with Swansea City on this platform, and my feelings haven’t changed. I now know that my first taste of live football was watching then-League Two Swansea City square off against Mansfield Town on the eighth of October, 2004.

My Dad has been a Swansea City fan all his life. He, my younger brother and I are now Swansea City season tickets holders, therefore I feel I’m qualified to analyse their squad heading into this matchup.

Paul Clement has quite the task at Swansea City. There seems to be a lack of cohesion between himself and the board, his squad lacks overall quality and depth in certain areas, and they didn’t adequately replace Gylfi Sigurðsson. Nonetheless, Clement will hope that he can to guide Swansea to safety once again this season.

I expect Clement to field a five-man defence at the Emirates. It’s what he did against Manchester United earlier in the season, and it’s what he did against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Clement has been striving to find his best formation and personnel all year. He’s settled on a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 in recent weeks, but his tendencies against ‘bigger’ teams would indicate a defensive approach for this weekend.

Lukasz Fabianski has been magnificent for Swansea City over the past few years. His numerous reflex saves have kept his team in games more than I can remember. Federico Fernandez and Alfie Mawson have formed a relatively solid partnership in central defence, and while Mike van der Hoorn struggled during his first Premier League season, has been solid in recent outings. Full-back is where issues start to arise.

Left-back Martin Olsson is a key player for Paul Clement. He provides the width on that side, and his athleticism is vital in getting Swansea up the field. The issue for Clement is that Olsson is likely to miss out this weekend due to an injury he sustained during the 2-0 Carabao Cup defeat to Manchester United. If Olsson misses out, expect either Kyle Naughton, Angel Rangel or the versatile Sam Clucas to replace him on the left-hand-side of defence.

Angel Rangel is not the player he once was, experienced he may be but he can no longer consistently play at this level. Kyle Naughton lacks athleticism – which is a drawback both offensively and defensively – and is a scapegoat for many supporters as he oftentimes refuses to progress with the ball. This is an area where Swansea will look to upgrade in the near future and an area that Arsenal should target on Saturday.

Clement will play three in midfield. Who he plays is the bigger question. Tom Carroll has featured in every Premier League game so far this season, but he hasn’t been effective in recent weeks so he could lose his starting spot. Summer signing Roque Mesa has been unable to adapt to the pace of the British game and is unworthy of a place in the starting eleven. Clement is a big fan of Ki Sung-Yueng, and the South Korean international impressed against Manchester United in midweek, so I would expect him to start. Leroy Fer should return to the starting lineup after his suspension, and I expect club captain Leon Britton to sit in front of the defence. 

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Renato Sanches is another signing who has failed to impress since his loan move from FC Bayern Munich. He’ll miss this game through injury but he’s tried too hard to make things happen during his brief Swansea career, and mistakes have inevitably followed. With time, he might show the form that earned him Euro 2016’s Young Player of the Tournament, but for now, he faces an uphill battle to break back into the starting lineup.

Nathan Dyer has looked sharp in cameo appearances, and he’ll likely start when ‘The Swans’ do battle with Brighton next weekend. Wayne Routledge will also be in contention to start next weekend, but because of the defensive setup, he’s unlikely to start this one. Luciano Narsingh has speed to burn, but his final ball and his positional awareness leave something to be desired. If he is to save his Swansea career, he must impress, and soon. He won’t start this weekend, but Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew certainly will.

Both strikers are incredibly energetic and are currently the spark in an otherwise incredibly monotonous Swansea side. Abraham is wise beyond his years and is already one of the emotional leaders on the field. As much as it pains me to say it, Chelsea have a very good player on their hands. Ayew is incredibly honest, direct and has incredible strength and balance despite his diminutive frame. These two will be feeding off scraps on Saturday, but both are very capable players.

Next: 5 Things Learned Against Everton

Swansea City have been a bogey team for Arsenal in recent years. They’ve started the season poorly, but I don’t think Paul Clement’s men will be able to stop Arsenal from taking all three points this weekend.