Liberty Stadium, Swansea
September 28, 2013; 17:30 BST
Swansea host Arsenal FC at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, in what promises to be an entertaining fixture. The last match between these two sides ended in a 2-0 victory for the Gunners as Monreal and Gervinho scored for the away side. Arsenal have had the upper hand against Welsh club, losing twice in the last six matches against them. Swansea’s last victory against Arsene Wenger’s men came back in 2012, when Michu scored a brace.
Swansea made a poor start to their campaign with back to back defeats against Manchester United and Tottenham in the opening two rounds. Michael Laudrup’s side has turned things around since then and are currently ninth on the league table. But the Welsh side are coming into this game on the back of humiliating League Cup defeat at the hands of Birmingham City. Swansea conceded three goals in the second half against the Championship side and will look to put out a better performance against the Gunners.
Arsenal on the other hand have had a dream start to their league campaign and have turned things around brilliantly after their much talked about opening day loss against Aston Villa at the Emirates. Since that loss Arsenal have won eight matches on the bounce and currently lead the league table. They are coming into this game on the back of scrappy victory over West Brom in the League Cup, where the match was forced to go to the penalties. But it was second string side that was fielded in the midweek game and the big names are set to return against Swansea.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Michael Laudrup doesn’t have too many injury concerns at the moment, but there are doubts about the fitness of Pablo Hernandez and Ashley Williams. Williams though is expected to feature in this game after recovering from his ankle injury.
Swansea are likely to field the same team that won against Crystal Palace last weekend, which means Bony will continue his role in the bench as Alvaro is preferred ahead of him. Rangel, Chico, Williams and Davies will form the back four with Canas and Shelvey playing in the pivot ahead of them. Canas is the man who provides the defensive cover to the backline with Shelvey playing in a more advanced role.
Alvaro will lead the line with Routledge, Michu and Dyer playing in behind him. Most of Swansea’s attack and build up comes down the right hand side of their pitch with Dyer and Rangel providing the width down that flank. Michu is yet to match the high standards he set last season, but the Spaniard is playing in a more withdrawn role this season. But Swansea needs him to score goals if they are to replicate their success this time.
Swansea are one of the few sides who look to take on Arsenal in their own game. They are brilliant in keeping possession and have provide a lot of worries for the Gunners in the past, although the score line hasn’t always reflected their effort. In this game, at home, it will be no different. They would look to retain the ball and push the Gunners back with patience build up. But they must also be careful about not providing too much space in behind the defence for the Arsenal attackers to exploit. Canas will have a special job in stopping Arsenal’s counter attack and reducing the influence of Mesut Ozil in the final third, but he would also need the help of Shelvey in acheieving that successfully.
Probable Starting XI [4-2-3-1]: Vorm (GK); Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Canas, Shelvey; Dyer, Michu, Routledge; Alvaro
Unlike Michael Laudrup, Arsene Wenger does have a long list of absentees ahead of this fixture. Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Abou Diaby, Yaya Sanogo, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky are all out with injuries. Rosicky is close to returning to full fitness and could be fit for the match against Napoli.
After resting most of his big name players in the match against West Brom in the League Cup, Arsene Wenger is expected to field the side he used in the match against Stoke City last weekend. Which means Sagna, Koscienly and Gibbs will return to the side alongside Mertesacker in defence, while Flamini and Ramsey resume their partnership in front of it. Mikel Arteta has returned from his injury and featured in Arsenal’s midweek game, but the Spaniard is likely to be dropped to the bench with Flamini and Ramsey forming a good partnership recently.
Gnabry will continue his stint in the first team squad in the absence of Theo Walcott on the right, while Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere will provide the creativity in behind Olivier Giroud. Ozil has made an instant impact upon his arrival and is already leading the assist chart. He and Wilshere will swap positions in the match, with the German moving out wide at times.
Flamini has been another significant signing for the Arsenal and he is providing the much needed steel in front of the defence. Something they have lacked for quite a long time in recent past. He and Ramsey could possibly keep Mikel Arteta out of this Arsenal side this season.
Arsenal will drop deep against Swansea and will switch to a more counter attacking tactics. They might allow the Welsh side to dominate possession and deny them space in behind the back line, this will in turn create space in behind the Swansea full-backs for the likes of Gnabry and Ozil to exploit.
Probable Starting Line-Up [4-2-3-1]: Szczesny (GK); Sagna, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs; Ramsey, Flamini; Gnabry, Ozil, Wilshere; Giroud
- Both Barclays Premier League games between Swansea and Arsenal last season ended as 2-0 away wins.
- Arsenal scored three goals from set-pieces in their last Premier League game, the first time they had scored this many in a single game since May 2010.
- Midfield ace Mesut Ozil has assisted more Barclays Premier League goals than any other player this season (3).
- Arsenal will equal their best run of Premier League away wins if they win this match (eight).
- Seven of the nine goals scored in the four games between Swansea and Arsenal last season came in the final 10 minutes of matches.
Player To Watch Out For
Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal)
The Englishman has been in sensational form this season for the Gunners and has kept Monreal rooted to the bench since the Spaniard has returned from his injury layoff. Gibbs has always been good while bombing forward in attack, but this season he has shown immense improvement in his defensive capabilities. With most of Swansea’s attack coming down his side, Gibbs will once again play an important role in this game, not only in defence, but also in counter-attacks.
Swansea 1-2 Arsenal
Swansea will come out hard at the Gunners, and might even grab an early lead in this game. But Arsenal will get into the match slowly and their superior quality in the final third will allow them to win all three points in the end. It will be a close affair none the less.