Arsenal lost their last league game away to Fulham after leading 1-0 at half time. It was a big defeat for the team because they would have moved into fourth place with a win. It would also have left them six points behind second placed Manchester United with almost half of the season to go.
Thankfully the players managed to regroup and beat Leeds in the FA Cup last Monday with a little bit of help from the returning Thierry Henry. It might not have been a great display from Arsenal on the night, but the win and the clean sheet were very important.
Their next task is a trip to Swansea City on Sunday afternoon and it's another game which will be far from easy for Arsenal. Swansea have performed very well since their promotion to the Premier League last summer and they are a very good team to watch. They have struggled away from home, but they have lost only one of their 10 home games so far.
That defeat came against reigning champions Manchester United and Swansea were a little unlucky on the day. They have only conceded four goals in those 10 home games and no team in the Premier League can better that record. They have shown that they can play attractive football at home without opening up too much to the opposition.
Arsenal started the season very poorly and they only took one point in their first four away games. Since then they have improved though and they have now won four out of 10 away games. In the process they have scored 20 goals and only league leaders Manchester City can better that.
However, Arsenal have conceded 22 goals away from home so far and no other team has conceded more on their travels than them. It's not exactly a record for them to be proud of, but it is slightly skewed by the 12 goals United and Blackburn put past them in two games when they were really struggling at the back. Since then Arsenal's defence has gelled a lot more and Fulham were the first team in 10 games to score more than one goal against them.
Arsenal have struggled in their last few games as their team has become far too imbalanced. The current injuries to all of their full-backs have meant they have had to play central defenders in those positions and it is affecting the way they play in my opinion. What's worse is that the players filling in for the full-backs are dropping like flies too.
Arsenal lost Francis Coquelin to a hamstring injury in that match against Leeds, but at least Johan Djourou will be available again after suspension. He's not the ideal candidate to play at right-back, but Arsenal's options are so limited that his return has to be welcomed. Ignasi Miquel will more than likely continue at left-back and he looks more than capable of playing there.
Miquel would probably have gone out on loan this month if he wasn't required to play as an emergency left-back. Coquelin is the only real cover for Alex Song in the squad with Emmanuel Frimpong loaned to Wolves, and it has to be hoped that he will return very soon. Both of them look like they are capable of having a very bright future at Arsenal, but it's still very early in their careers to know for sure.
The options in central defence are now quite limited too and Laurent Koscielny is sure to start, but Per Mertesacker is a doubt with illness. Both Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky missed that game because of illness, and Wenger has to make a decision on their condition before Sunday's game. That would leave Sebastien Squillaci as the only experienced defender available, and he is bound to start if Mertesacker doesn't.
In midfield I would imagine Song, Mikael Arteta and Aaron Ramsey will again play from the start. Those three players have been the first choice trio in Arsenal's midfield for most of the season now, and they will remain so until Jack Wilshere returns from injury next month. What happens then is anybody's guess, but it can't be bad for the team.
Robin van Persie will return from his break in Dubai to lead the attack, and hopefully add to his tally of 17 league goals so far this season. It's almost impossible to overestimate his contribution to the team this season, and hopefully the break will have done him some good. He had looked a little stale in his last few games, but hopefully Swansea will pay the price for him getting a chance to recharge his batteries.
I would be very surprised if Theo Walcott didn't play on the right side of the attack, and I think Andrey Arshavin will probably start on the left. Arshavin tried a lot harder than I have seen him try for a long time, and I think he will keep his place in the team as a result. That would mean Thierry Henry will be on the bench, but I would imagine he will play a part at some stage.
His return against Leeds is something Arsenal fans will remember for the rest of their lives, but he's probably still a little short on fitness to start. I can't wait to hear the traveling Arsenal fans singing his name, and to see their reaction when he does play. The traveling fans are always a credit to the club, and I have no doubt that they will be heard for the entire game yet again.
I'm sure Swansea will approach the game as they always do, and look to play their own game right from the start. They are very good in possession, and they always look to play football the right way. They are actually quite similar to Arsenal in the way that they play, and it could be a good game for the purists.
Arsenal have being missing a lot of chances in recent games, but I'm hoping that the break for RVP will help to rectify that. To be honest Arsenal haven't played very well for an entire 90 minutes in a while now, but they will get the opportunity to do so against Swansea. I'm hoping the players can take that opportunity and put in a performance to show that they are right in there in the battle for fourth place.
The continued Premier League success for Spurs is becoming an annoyance for Arsenal fans, but the team has to be ready to pounce when Spurs falter. The vast majority of Arsenal fans are still sure that Spurs will falter, but they're not sure what the trigger for their demise will be. It's possible that the trial of their manager on charges of "tax evasion" will be the start of the downfall, or maybe his conviction on those charges will do it.
Spurs have four tough games in their next seven games, and they could be the real test for them. They have to travel to Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal, as well as playing at home to Manchester United. I don't believe they will be in the current lofy position by the time those games are finished in early March.
I think the game with Swansea will be a very tight one, but Arsenal have that little bit of quality that will get them the three points. Whether that quality comes from RVP or off the bench is another matter, but I do believe they will win. I'm predicting a 1-0 win, but as long as it's a win I'm not too bothered how it happens or who scores the goals.
In other news Wenger has said Marouane Chamakh will not be sold in the January transfer window. His last year at Arsenal has been very disappointing, nd he's currently on international duty at the African Cup of Nations. He won't be back at the club until next month, and that would seem to curtail any chance of selling him.
Finally for today Arsenal's Premier League trip to Bolton Wanderers has been switched from Tuesday January 31st to Wednesday February 1st. It's to accommodate the Fa Cup fourth round tie with Aston Villa which has been switched to Sunday January 29th, and will be shown live on TV.
That's it for today.
Here's the highlights of Arsenal's Fa Cup win over Leeds and that Henry goal.
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