Swansea vs. Arsenal Preview: Time to Chase the Leading Pack
On Saturday morning, I had a strange dream about the Premier League weekend fixtures that were to come.
I saw St. Paulinus Scholinus of Manchester United scoring a long range screamer against Bolton and I also saw Nicklas Bendtner grabbing a late equalizer for Sunderland against Chelsea. Wayne Hennessey and Steven Fletcher had shots of the real cognac before the game and the Welsh goalie kept better than that goalkeeper in Shaolin Soccer that was barraged with many shots in the final game against those drugged up goons wearing black jerseys.
In reality, Scholinus actually returned from his lair to score a close-range finish with Danny Welbeck and Micheal Carrick completing the scoring. Nicklas Bendtner actually had a chance to salvage a draw for the Black Cats but he chose to play like the Bendtner we all know.
As for Wayne Hennessey against Tottenham…Be the judge of that.
Unlike Liverpool that visited the Liberty Stadium in their only encounter abroad this season, Arsenal is going to visit a ground that has become a fortress in the Premier League this campaign. Swansea were hugely tipped by the bookies to make a quick plunge back to the npower Championship but like fellow surprise package Norwich City, they have steadied themselves in the top flight and are currently in 13th place.
This Welsh outfit boasts of the second best home record in the league and they have conceded a miserly four goals at home with six clean sheets recorded too. Manchester United is the only team that has gone to Wales and came back home with all three points.
Arsenal’s boss Arsene Wenger spoke about his admiration for their style of play:
“We know Swansea have the quality to exist in the Premier League because they play such positive football. If you look at the numbers, they master possession in a lot of games. That means they have the technical quality to be at the level where they are and over 38 games that will pay off for you.”
This is also a sentiment that has been shared by Thierry Henry.
Speaking of Henry, many Gooners and neutrals alike are tipping the Arsenal legend to start but I have a hunch that Wenger would grant a start to Andrey Arshavin. He has labeled the Russian as an efficient player and if you view Arshavin’s performance last season with half an eye, you’ll realise how amazing his contribution was to Arsenal.
It’s fair to say that he was very frustrating to watch but he scored 10 goals and laid on 17 assists to his teammates, a feat that was not achieved by many of his peers last season.
Moving over to injury news, the usual suspects are still out and there are doubts of the fitness of Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky as both lads haven’t trained all week due to ailments. Abou Diaby has suffered a lot of setbacks throughout 2011 and he has gone globetrotting to Qatar and Miami in a bid to save his career.
For team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to continue in goal. He didn’t get deserved rest in the FA Cup thanks to the uncertainty regarding the play of his goalkeeping rivals. The defense has been stretched to its bare minimums but Johan Djourou’s return from suspension is highly welcome so he’ll be deployed to the right back position.
The ever-present Laurent Koscielny will be at the heart of the defense and he could be partnered by the calamitous Sebastien Squillaci if Mertesacker isn’t deemed fit enough to start. Ignasi Miquel will be the stand-in left back till that Omani left back passes his trial at least.
Jack Wilshere is still on the road to full fitness so the midfield will be manned by Arsenal’s ever-present trinity that consists of the general Alex Song, the level headed Mikel Arteta and the exuberant Aaron Ramsey.
The attack has picked itself for a large chunk of the season so I’ll expect Robin van Persie to spearhead the attack with Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin providing wit on the flanks.
At least, we’ll get to see Thierry Henry at some point in the game. Either from the center forward position, like he played against Leeds from the wings, as Wenger feels so.
Arsenal, no more slip ups.
It’s time to chase the leading pack.