Swansea Preview & More
Arsenal take to the field this afternoon at The Liberty Stadium knowing that only a win will do. Whilst Tottenham dropped points, no-one else above has yet to do so this weekend. To close the gap on third to seven points puts pressure on them, increasing their nerves in the process is no bad thing. As important is creating a small gap to sixth. This is a psychological game as much as the physical.
When Swansea visited The Emirates in September, an away win must have crossed their minds. Arsenal were after all struggling, reeling from the heavy defeat at Old Trafford. They played on that day much the same way as they have done for their other games; determined to pass the ball, to play properly, if you like. There may have been an element of surprise but I am not sure that is the case. This time, Arsenal are in better form despite the defeat at Craven Cottage, a club buoyed by the goalscoring return of Thierry Henry. And that is where I expect the Frenchman’s main impact to be this afternoon. Surely Arsène is not planning to start the club’s leading goalscorer, no matter if he is fitter than expected.
You can’t rule anything out.
To be honest, there would raised eyebrows if Henry was selected to start before Arshavin. The Russian’s form has been sporadic this season but Wenger has faith in the player evidenced by his comments on Friday. There were signs against Leeds that confidence was returning yet nothing can be taken for granted, Arshavin has a major opportunity with Gervinho’s absence to push his case for more frequent appearances. Hopefully he will take it.
Elsewhere the manager is waiting on bugs and illnesses to clear up before his XI can be selected. Thomas Vermaelen is Arsène’s big hope for the United clash next weekend. With Johan Djourou returning from suspension, Mertesacker recovering would allow the manager just the problem on the left to ponder. Swansea like to use the width of the pitch with no reluctance to attack either of the oppositions fullbacks from Sinclair or Dyer.
I would expect the line-up to be,
Szczesny; Djourou, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Miquel; Ramsey, Arteta, Song; Walcott, van Persie, Arshavin
No starting place for Henry but nice to have an attacking option off the bench. No place in the starting line-up for Oxlade-Chamberlain; his time will come and he did himself every favour with his instant rebuttal of media stories that sought to disrupt. His case is interesting from the supporters point of view; a promising youngster upon whom hopes are pinned more out of desperation through the opening stages of the season than his own potential. More from the desire for Wenger to spend than for want of the youngster himself. He has the potential, we have seen glimpses; he just needs the playing time now.
Elsewhere, Abou Diaby is globetrotting in his search for anything vaguely resembling match fitness. Fair play to Steve Stammers for correctly identifying the culprit, something that there is a reticence to do outside of the Gunnersphere. Portrayed in some as a latent genius, Diaby is more frequently held to be the bete noir, the epitomy of what is wrong with Arsenal. Personally, I don’t believe that to be the case; he is everything that is right with the club in their willingness to stand by a player who has severe injury problems rather than cutting him adrift with a free transfer or insurance payment.
Those hoping for swift action in the transfer window are possibly going to be disappointed. Arsène hates the January interlude, wishing that we revert to the old set-up or close it save for the summer months. The latter is the course of action proposed by Herbert Chapman eighty-odd years ago; nobody listened to him either. It is typically selfish of Wenger, thinking only of himself. If the transfer window only opened between June and August, what would the poor journalists do for a living? How many of them could earn a living?
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.