Saturday, 16 March 2013

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Swansea Previewed

With all of Arsenal's trophy hopes for the season now well and truly finished there's just a top four spot in the Premier League to play for. Arsene Wenger may have included it as one of the "trophies" the club aim for at the start of the season, but there's no silverware for finishing anything but first. The big prize is Champions League qualification and the rewards and benefits it brings.

It's projected that Arsenal will make well over €30 million from their participation in the Champions League this season and the absence for that sort of reward puts a big hole in any transfer fund. I doubt there's much money to be made from Europa League football in comparison and the inconvenience of Thursday night football is one no fan can really wish for. It's also a lot easier to attract players to a club with the promise of participation in the top club competition in football.

The team defended very well against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night and took their chances to claim a 2-0 victory. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to put them through to the quarter finals as they went out on away goals. Hopefully the result will have given the players the confidence they need to go into their final 10 games on a high.

If they win all 10 of those games I have no doubt they will make up the ground on the teams above them, but each game they don't win is a step further away from the holy grail. I personally think they will need to win eight of those games to guarantee a spot in the top four and that won't be an easy task. It's vital for the team to get that task off to a good start with a positive result today.

In team news Jack Wilshere and Lukas Podolski are both unavailable through injury. It should mean the team isn't too different from the one that played on Wednesday night. The boss has a few decisions to make after the performances of the players in that game.

There has been a call for Lukasz Fabianski to play in goal after his very good performance against Bayern, but that would surely be unfair on Wojciech Szczesny. He has been good this season despite a few lapses in concentration and he is the first choice keeper at the club. To drop him now might do his confidence an awful lot of harm and hopefully Fabianski's performance will make him realise he has some real competition at last.

Kieran Gibbs did well at left back considering it was his first game back from injury after a couple of months out. I think Nacho Monreal will probably get the nod though as Gibbs might be feeling the effects from that game and it could lead to him picking up another injury.

The other real big choice is in the centre of defence where Laurent Koscielny had a great game against Bayern. It's a straight choice between him and captain Thomas Vermaelen to play alongside Per Mertesacker. I think Koscielny should play, but it's a big decision for the manager to leave his captain on the bench again.

The midfield were far from great against Bayern and far too many passes went astray on the night. They will have to be an awful lot tighter today if they are going to win. I don't think there will be any changes in the six players outside of the defence, but there are options besides the players who played on Wednesday night.

Abou Diaby, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho will all feel they have something to contribute. Hopefully they can take the chance if it comes their way today. I though both Chamberlain and Gervinho impressed coming off the bench against Bayern.

Swansea are a good team and fully deserved to win the Capital One Cup a few weeks ago. They are in a safe position in the league with a Europa League spot for next season already secured thanks to that Capital One Cup victory. They could be forgiven for relaxing and going through the motions for the rest of the season.

I can't see any such thing happening though and I have no doubt they will do their best to finish as high in the league as possible. They will give their all to today's game and would be delighted to do the double over Arsenal this season. They got a fully deserved 2-0 win over Arsenal at the Emirates late last year in a game where Arsenal were at their very worst.

The Arsenal players know what has to be done for the rest of the season and they quite simply have to go out and do it. There can be no half-hearted displays in any game and every single point has to be fought for. They are good enough to get the points they need as long as they have the application that is required.

I think they will manage a win today, but it will be a very close game. There should be plenty of good football from both sides and Arsenal need to take whatever good chances come their way. It would be great for Arsenal to close the gap on both Chelsea and Spurs ahead of their games tomorrow.

The better the results Arsenal get ahead of games those teams play the more pressure that will be on them. Hopefully that pressure can mount if Arsenal can put a good run together. It's amazing the difference a few wins can make and it's time for Arsenal to make that difference.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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