The FourFourTwo Preview: Arsenal vs Swansea
A battle of bottle at both ends of the table.
It wasn't just the nature of Arsenal's 6-0 defeat to Chelsea that caused the weekend's biggest jolt - tonkings by both Manchester City (6-3) and Liverpool (5-1) in the league this season are still fresh in the memory, after all. Instead it was the timing of their latest humiliation that delivered a shock. Almost from the moment Arsenal had reestablished themselves as genuine Premier League contenders (rather than a shoo-in for fourth spot) following their away win at Spurs, so they were being swept aside by Jose Mourinho's title-chasing side.
- Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Spurs 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
- Bayern 1-1 Arsenal (CL)
- Arsenal 4-1 Everton (FAC)
- Stoke 1-0 Arsenal (Prem)
- Everton 3-2 Swansea (Prem)
- Swansea 1-2 WBA (Prem)
- Swansea 1-1 Palace (Prem)
- Napoli 3-1 Swansea (EL)
- Liverpool 4-3 Swansea (Prem)
This fixture against Swansea presents a neatly timed opportunity to stem the bleeding. With rumours that crisis talks were held at Arsenal during the fallout from Saturday, not to mention reports that Arsene Wenger is maybe questioning his position on a new contract at the club, a home fixture might be just the tonic. Win with style and Arsenal can recalibrate their tilt at the title. A nervy draw - or heaven forbid, defeat - and Arsenal's reputation as chokers on the home straight will have gathered further credence.
Swansea will present a test of modest challenges. With the Europa League's whistle-stop tour of easyJet destinations concluded, their results have given fans much to fret about. The 3-2 defeat at Everton was yet another nail in the coffin of a season that stands in stark contrast to the bright campaign of 2012/13. The table paints an equally gloomy picture: Swansea have gone eight games without a win. The shadow of potential relegation lengthens with every week.
Such are Arsenal's injury concerns in prominent areas that one or two players should be made available for cameo roles in Casualty. Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby and Mezut Ozil are medium to long-term absentees, though the red shown to Kieran Gibbs - that should have been waved at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - against Chelsea by officialdom's latest pantomime villain Andre Marriner has been rescinded.
In better news, midfield fulcrum Aaron Ramsey might be available for selection.
Swansea's medical notes are comparatively lightweight. Only defender Kyle Bartley is sidelined following his hamstring injury. Striker Michu, who was a long-term presence in the stands, should now be on his way to full fitness following appearances against West Brom and Everton.
Player to watch: Tomas Rosicky (Arsenal)
Rosicky has been the focus of a charge of "What if?' questions from Arsenal fans this season: What if injuries hadn't hampered his career curve? What if he was a couple of years younger than 33? What if his supporting cast - Ozil, Ramsey, Walcott and Wilshere - hadn't been pinched by lengthy spells in the medical room in recent months? Chances are, Arsenal's points tally this season would have been slightly higher.
As his performances this season have proved, Rosicky has shown both the technical smarts and vision to unlock resolute defences (maybe not against top four sides, but definitely when combating teams lower down the table). His work-rate is unswerving, too. This is a stage on which Rosicky is primed to make a telling contribution. A display brimming with verve and confidence should steady any nerves within his team-mates.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Swans 1-2 Arsenal (Prem, Sep 13)
- Swans 0-2 Arsenal (Prem, Mar 13)
- Arsenal 1-0 Swans (FAC, Jan 13)
- Swans 2-2 Arsenal (FAC, Jan 13)
- Arsenal 0-2 Swans (Prem, Dec 12)
Wenger might have experienced something of a crisis of personality given the weekend's schizophrenic mood. Hype precluding his 1,000th game in charge lauded him as an innovative figure amid the Premier League's current era of hyper-fitness (such was the gushing praise, it wouldn't have been a surprise had someone heralded him as the inventor of broccoli). By Monday, commentators had framed him as a man struggling to keep up with the changing times. Happy birthday.
For Garry Monk, Swansea's current man at the helm, a trip to the Emirates Stadium presents a free swing on the fixture list.
His side travel to London with no real expectation of securing three points - most fans would have dismissed this fixture as an exercise in misery long before their season had taken such a turn for the worst. The shackles are off, then. Gather a point or better here, and Monk's claim for survival could gather momentum.
Facts and figures
- Arsenal have not conceded a first-half goal in 11 home matches.
- Arsenal have recorded six 2-0 wins in their last 10 home games.
- Arsenal have won all 13 of their home games against bottom-half teams since the start of last season; 11 wins by at least 2 goals.
- Swansea have lost all 7 of their trips this season to the top 9.
- Swansea have been trailing at half-time in 5 of their last 6 trips to teams in the top six.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Arsenal to cool their Stamford Bridge sweats with a comprehensive home success. 3-0.