Sunday, 9 November 2014

Arsenal's Premier League Trip To Swansea Previewed

The events of Tuesday night are still very much fresh in my mind as I attempt to write a preview of Arsenal's game with Swansea today. The last half hour against Anderlecht was the stuff of nightmares, but Arsenal should still make it comfortably through to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Their Premier League position isn't too bad either as a win will put them back into the top four with 20 points from their first 11 games.

That game against Anderlecht showed that you just don't know what you'll get with this Arsenal team and predicting the outcome of any game they play is a perilous task. The under investment in defensive players in the summer has left the team struggling to put out a decent defence with only two injuries at the back. Meanwhile the failure to buy a defensive midfielder has meant the cover that defence needs hasn't been there on a regular enough basis.

Mikel Arteta has been the go to option as a defensive midfielder for the last few seasons despite it not being his natural position, but his season has been plagued by injury so far. In his absence Mathieu Flamini has filled in, but I don't think he is quite up to the task at this level. In recent games both of them have played together and Arsenal kept clean sheets against both Sunderland and Burnley with the two of them in the team.

Arsene Wenger chose not to play them both against Anderlecht and Arteta did well enough but he went off injured and Arsenal fell apart when he did. It wasn't all down to Flamini though as the team as a whole failed to do the right things and defend as a unit. Every single player has to have his share of defensive responsibilities and they have to always be aware of what those responsibilities are. Of course it's up to the coaching staff to make the players aware of those responsibilities and the directions from the bench were noticeable in their absence on Tuesday night.

In team news Arteta will miss out due to the injury he picked up in that game while Jack Wilshere returns to the squad after injury. I think Flamini will fill in for Arteta and I wouldn't be surprised if Wilshere was asked to play alongside him. So far this season Arsenal's record with Wilshere on the pitch is not good and they have fared an awful lot better when he has not played or when he has been subbed off.

With Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud still injured the options in attack are still a little limited and I don't expect to see too many changes. Alexis Sanchez will of course play and Danny Welbeck will more than likely do so too with the other two places possibly up for grabs. Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will all vie for those two places with Lukas Podolski and Tomas Rosicky hoping to get into the side too. There's always the possibility of Theo Walcott playing from the start but I doubt it as he is slowly reintroduced into the team following a 10 month injury lay off.

For me I think it should be Chamberlain and Ramsey who play as I think Cazorla hasn't offered enough to the team in recent games. I know Ramsey had been far from his best too, but I think his form will return with a good run of games as injuries have played a part in his season so far. I think Chamberlain is always the one to pay for a poor team performance by being dropped or subbed off and I would like to see him keep his place after a very good goal and performance on Tuesday night. His defensive performance wasn't up to scratch but then who's was.

I would be very surprised if there were any changes in the Arsenal defence today, but I would like to see at least one. I think Hector Bellerin should come in at right back with Calum Chambers moving to centre back and Nacho Monreal dropping to the bench. Monreal is a left back who has struggled when he has been asked to play in the centre and Chambers has looked better to me when he has played there. I thought Bellerin did well in the games in which he had to be chosen and I think his inclusion added to Chambers switching roles would lead to a more balanced defence.

Swansea are a good team who play good attractive football, but they have only won once in their last seven league games after starting the season with three wins. They like to play against teams who let them play though and have always played very well against Arsenal since their promotion. They know they will get the time on the ball that they enjoy against Arsenal and both Gylfi Sigurdsson and Wilfried Bony can be a real handful for a nervous Arsenal defence

Arsenal should be able to play their game too though and hopefully that will make the difference in their favour. Swansea will have to stop the best player in the league right now if they're going to get something from this game and that's no easy task. I hope Araenal won't be too nervous and hold back after what happened on Tuesday night because I think the three points are there for them if they go for it. Of course they will have to defend better as a team but once they find their attacking flair I think they will win.

I'll be watching the game in the Dublin branch of the Arsenal supporters club at what promises to be a great day. The details of the day and it's events are below and hopefully it will be a great success accompanied by three points before another dreaded international break.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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