Friday, 9 September 2011

Arsenal v Swansea – Preview

It goes without saying that the Gunners could really do with three points at the Emirates tomorrow afternoon, partly to rebuild the team’s confidence, partly to reassure the fans still reeling after the Man United defeat, and partly to claw our way back up the table, since we are already 8 points adrift of the league leaders. Opta also informs me that we are the only Premier League team to date to have had a player sent off in the first three matches of a season, so finishing the game with eleven men would also be a bonus. As well as that, accounting for the tail-end of last season as well as the poor start to 2011/12, we’ve now gone six league games without a win – Arsenal’s worst run since 1994. Bucking all those worrying trends would be a very good thing indeed.

Swansea are a good side and played arguably the most attractive attacking football in the Championship last season. They’ve started their Premier League campaign fairly well, with two draws against Sunderland and Wigan, but also lost 4-0 to Man City – their only away trip so far. Swans’ all-action, open style leaves them vulnerable to teams with pace that can counter-attack quickly. This bodes well for Arsenal, who often struggle to break more defensive teams down at the Emirates. It looks as though Swansea boss Brendan Rodgers is well aware of his side’s weaknesses, since he has signed three defenders in the transfer window, but it seems unlikely that they’ll all play at the weekend since apparently FIFA are yet to give two of the new players clearance.

It is probable, on the other hand, that we’ll see at least some of the Gunners’ new signings in action. Latest injury news is that Vermaelen and Wilshere are both out – possibly for the long term, which could be a huge problem – while Diaby is still injured and Rosicky is also a doubt, as he picked up a knock on international duty this week. Gervinho and Song are both still suspended, and Santos probably won’t play as he hasn’t featured in a competitive match since the Copa America. So Gibbs, who is now fit again, should start at left-back, with Sagna (also feeling better now apparently) at right-back, and – probably – Koscielny and Mertesacker in the middle, with Szczesny in goal, obviously. Theo’s hamstring, which kept him out of the England side that faced Wales, is reportedly ok, so he should feature with Ramsey (man of the match in that game), Arshavin, Frimpong and Arteta, all supporting RvP up front. I reckon we could also see Yossi and Park coming on from the bench, so not a bad line-up compared to the team that took to the field at Old Trafford. It will certainly be an interesting game. I am wary of expecting too much too soon, but positive signs in both defence and attack from the new boys would provide a statement of intent for the season, and would demonstrate that there is still life after Cesc and Samir.

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What do you think, Gooners?