Focus: How Swansea's Montero could threaten high-flying Arsenal
Swansea’s recent victory over Aston Villa may have partially repaired their confidence, but a rampant Arsenal will expect victory at the Liberty Stadium.
Garry Monk’s side have increasingly relied upon Jefferson Montero in this period of stuttering form and the tricky winger could be the perfect weapon against an injury-hit Arsenal.
Swansea’s patient, short-passing approach inevitably causes creativity issues during prolonged periods of poor form; technical artistry and team cohesion are the first thing to be hit by a loss of confidence.
Across the last three matches, Swansea have averaged 7 dribbles per game (lowest in division), and 48% of these have come from Montero – the touchline-hugging left winger whose playing style bucks the trend of Swansea’s narrow passing style.
A direct dribbler is an excellent outlet when confidence is low and intricate tactics seem convoluted. It is also the perfect way to exploit an Arsenal team with very few options on the right hand side. Injuries in midweek to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott mean Santi Cazorla could play wide.
Santi Cazorla’s last appearance in this position was the 2-0 defeat to West Ham, a game in which the visitors dominated down both flanks and Cazorla, making 2 tackles and 1 interception, had a very poor game. Montero will fancy his chances of success this weekend.
Despite this vulnerability, Arsenal’s creative threat should be enough to overwhelm a fragile Swansea team. Jonjo Shelvey can often be found ambling back after a counter-attack and somewhat lazily shirking defensive responsibilities; if he does this on Saturday, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez will run riot.
Given that both teams play with a high line (Swansea and Arsenal are first and fourth in the table respectively for most offsides caught) the counter-attacking pace of Montero and Sanchez could be the defining factor in this game.