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Swansea vs Arsenal preview: Is it Implosion Time for the Gunners again already?

Billed as

SWANSEA FORM

Villa 1-2 Swansea (Prem)

Swansea 0-1 Stoke (Prem)

Swansea 2-2 Spurs (Prem)

So’ton 3-1 Swansea (Prem)

Hull 1-0 Swansea (LC)

ARSENAL FORM

Sheff Wed 3-0 Arsenal (LC)

Arsenal 2-1 Everton (Prem)

Arsenal 2-0 B Munich (CL)

Watford 0-3 Arsenal (Prem)

Arsenal 3-0 Man Utd (Prem)

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“Oh, is it Arsenal Implosion Time again? It comes around quicker every year.”

The lowdown

That went well. Arsenal’s visit to Hillsborough came with a three-point checklist: 1) Don’t pick up injuries; 2) Win; 3) Avoid extra-time. At least they managed the last one.

There’s never a good time to lose 3-0 to a Championship side, but the result is especially unfortunate because it almost renders naught Arsenal’s otherwise impressive October. From the excellent to the execrable, their midweek performance undermined good work done against Manchester United and Bayern Munich, and while Arsene Wenger may not give a tinker’s toss what outsiders think, that will strike a blow to the confidence of the dressing room.

Wenger himself can’t win (not literally). Criticised for resting key players in cups, he fielded a semi-strong team against Sheffield Wednesday: sure, there were teenage debutants, but also Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud, Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs, who did at least turn up. The result? Injuries to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott, and the manager’s admission he “maybe brought too many experienced players here”.

But Wenger’s a proud man, and even his whoops-my-bad seemed to be played to the gallery. Coupled with his claim that the youngsters he picked “are not ready to play at this level, none of them” – a path well trodden by Sam Allardyce and mortal enemy Jose Mourinho – that statement had the air of someone saying: “I followed your advice and look where it got me. Happy?”

Swansea had the midweek off from League Cup shenanigans, having previously lost to Hull, so they could have more time to prepare for Arsenal’s visit. Very shrewd.

Just as the Gunners’ Steel City stumble isn’t necessarily the beginning of the end, reports of Swansea’s own demise were greatly exaggerated. But so too, perhaps, were reports of their triumphant recovery after a 2-1 victory against a shambles of an Aston Villa team. Before Andre Ayew’s late clincher, the Swans were on course for going seven games without a win.

Still, Swansea isn’t home to Private Frazer, nor Lance-Corporal Jones. They're far from doomed and there’s no need to panic.

They were unlucky to lose to Stoke, even if they lacked penetration, and were denied victory over Spurs only by two Christian Eriksen free-kicks (ably assisted by Lukasz Fabianski). Garry Monk’s men aren’t playing badly; they just need to be more incisive. So it’s a good time to face an open team such as Arsenal.

Team news

Wayne Routledge is fit again so there are no injuries to report in this area of Wales. Their opponents, on the other hand...

Predictably, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain picked up muscular injuries during the midweek defeat at Hillsborough, making for a crowded physio room (although by this stage, Arsenal have probably built an extension and are seeking planning approval for an annex). Aaron Ramsey is still being patched up, too.

Even more predictably, Jack Wilshere’s suffered a setback in his own recovery. The midfielder says this injury is “mentally the toughest one to take” in his career, suggesting the biggest battle will be in his mind. Arsenal, then, are without Wilshere (head), Ospina (shoulder), Rosicky, Welbeck (knees) and Arteta (toes). Fine, Arteta actually has an ankle injury. Close enough.

Player to watch: Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea)

Monk has played with three central midfielders, not two, in only one league match this season, a 3-1 defeat to Southampton, but he may want to consider adding Jack Cork to the Shelvey-Ki axis against Arsenal for extra protection. On the other hand, Monk may feel that Gylfi Sigurdsson can force Santi Cazorla onto the back foot, in which case Shelvey’s role in Swansea’s 4-2-3-1 setup is more important than ever.

The 23-year-old has played well this season alongside Ki Sung-yueng. He has shown ambition with his passing – of the league’s most prolific passers, he averages by far the furthest distance – and, less happily, his shooting, hitting some 90% of his shots from outside the area. It is the defensive side of his game that’s most important here, however. Shelvey’s tackling has improved, something he himself has recognised: the midfielder said two months ago that “since the back end of last year... I’m not as rash with my tackles and I am trying to stay on my feet”. Indeed, he has dispossessed an opponent with two-thirds of his attempts in this campaign. But with Arsenal’s players fond of a dribble, that ratio will need to be even higher.

How Jonjo Shelvey overcame himself to soar with Swansea – and perhaps England

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

Arsenal 0-1 Swans (PL, May 15)

Swans 2-1 Arsenal (PL, Nov 14)

Arsenal 2-2 Swans (PL, Mar 14)

Swans 1-2 Arsenal (PL, Sep 13)

Swans 0-2 Arsenal (PL, Mar 13)

The managers

Monk has received some support from an unlikely source: Cardiff City. “We shouldn’t even be talking about it,” said the Swansea rivals’ boss, Russell Slade, about there being pressure on Monk, adding: “The man has done a fantastic job.” It’s one of the more sensible things to come out of Slade’s mouth, even if it won’t endear him to his own team’s fans. The seemingly endless pressure on Wenger looked to have subsided briefly, but one disastrous cup match has put the spotlight firmly back on the 66-year-old. He won’t sweat, though. Seriously, think for a minute: have you ever seen Wenger sweat, even when he’s wearing a two-man tent?

Wenger endorses Arteta for managerial role

Facts and figures

  • Arsenal have scored 1999 goals in all competitions under Arsene Wenger.
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson has scored or assisted 30 goals in 60 Premier League appearances for Swansea (16 goals, 14 assists).
  • Oliver Giroud has the best minutes per goal rate of any player in the Premier League this season (minimum 2 goals), scoring every 88.8 minutes on average.
    More FFT Stats Zone facts

FourFourTwo prediction

Arsenal get back on track with a 2-1 win that ruins Swansea’s perfect symmetry of W3 D4 L3 F12 A12.

Swansea vs Arsenal LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone

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