Saturday, 14 January 2017

Arsenal's Trip To Swansea City Previewed

It's back to the bread and butter of the Premier League for Arsenal today when they visit struggling Swansea. They overcame Championship side Preston in the cup last week after a first half to forget and today's opponents could easily be playing in the same league as Preston next season. Swansea have had a poor season so far and find themselves in the relegation zone, but they are only one point from the relative safety of seventeenth place Crystal Palace.

With eight points to make up on league leaders Chelsea it's a game Arsenal just have to win and they have to follow it up with home wins against Watford and Burnley before they travel to play Chelsea. If they can go into that game with nine points from those three games they should hopefully have made up some ground on a Chelsea team who seem to be having a few problems of their own. Their chances of staying in the title race could depend on the outcome of that game against Chelsea and they at least have to go into that game in the best position possible to them.

If they're going to take nine points from those next three games they will have to do an awful lot better than they have done in their last two games. The first half performances at Bournemouth and Preston were nowhere near good enough and they cannot start in the same fashion today. They need to be at the races from the first minute and they need to press home any advantage they might get as all too often they score first and then let their opponent back into the game.

Arsene Wenger has a few decisions to make with Hector Bellerin added to those unavoidable while Mesut Ozil should be fit again after a bout of illness. I had my suspicions that Ozil was given a mid-season break to recharge his batteries, but we'll go with the official club line of him being ill. He should return today and so should Alexis Sanchez after he was rested in the cup win at Preston last week.

With Francis Coquelin still out we should see Granit Xhaka and Aaron Ramsey continue in midfield and we definitely need to see an improvement from their partnership. With Theo Walcott still out I would hope to see Lucas Perez start in one of the wide roles as he has a knack of scoring goals at the right time and I think he might offer more protection to the full back than Alex Iwobi. There's a chance they will both play, but that would mean leaving Olivier Giroud on the bench and I can't see that happening after his recent goalscoring exploits.

With Giroud in the team we aren't as quick to do anything in attack or as dynamic either, but it's hard to argue with his goals at the moment. Starting Giroud also means putting Alexis into a wide role where his influence is less, but I think that is just what we will get. I prefer to see Alexis snapping at the heels of defenders in the belief he will get the ball rather than Giroud looking like he is going through the motions at the same job.

With Bellerin out I imagine Gabriel Paulista will play at right back considering both Carl Jenkinson and Mathieu Debuchey seem to be up for sale at the moment. It's not his natural position, but he has done well enough when he has played there. The only problem is what we will miss from Bellerin in attack where he is an extra asset at opponents can struggle against at times.

When we won 3-2 at home to Swansea Nacho Monreal got a very tough time from Madou Barrow and he will need more protection today if Barrow plays. I think we could nearly be better off with Kieran Gibbs at left except for the fact that he's injured of course. It has to be a close goal for the goalkeeper's shirt too as Petr Cech continues to disappoint with David Ospina waiting in the wings.

Finally for today we are the top scorers away from home and we're going to the team with the worst defensive record at home. For me that means we should win and win well and I just hope that players can give us a full 90 minute performance and restore some confidence in them and the fans too.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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