At the beginning of our 2011-12 campaign, we had to play our third-choice defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin against the reigning champions at Old Trafford. In January 2012 we had all our full-backs out due to injury so Arsene Wenger had to field either a central defender or, again, Francis Coquelin out of position. Two years later, our midfield was massacred with injuries to Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Mesut Özil and Jack Wilshere. It seems that the injury demons like to single out a certain position in our team so that we feel the devastating effect of the injuries more.
Now we have three options for our right wing on the sidelines. Hell, at this injury rate, Wenger might be forced to offer a trial to Nigel Farage as a natural right-wing option!
Strangely enough, one of aforementioned injury crisis also coincided with a visit to Wales. In 2012, we played Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea without any natural full-backs as Johan Djourou had started on the right and Ignasi Miquel on the left of the defence. We lost 3:2 as their wingers Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair ran the show. That was the first of our defeats against Swansea. Which leads us to…
The Jinx Team
For a team of our stature beating teams like Swansea is imperative in order to fight for the title. However, since their return to the Premier League, Swansea have won four league clashes to our three. We haven’t beaten them in the last three attempts. More over, they did a double over us last season. Not just that – their lucky victory at the Emirates Stadium last season had handed second place to Manchester City! We all remember the Spaniard Michu, that one-season-wonder that hit us with a brace at the Emirates in 2012. Well, Michu is still on the books at Swansea but now considers retirement at the age of 29 (via mirror.co.uk).
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We are concerned about our right-wing which is a logical reaction to losing Ramsey, Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain in just seven days. However, there is another issue that I haven’t seen too many articles about – what about our centre forward? Can Olivier Giroud single-handily lead our attack in all three games before the international break?
Then, there is a question how will Mesut Özil and Santi Cazorla be affected with a new man on our right wing?
They haven’t been the most consistent team in the Premier League this season. A draw at Stamford Bridge and a victory against Manchester United have been great results for them. Then, they have lost to Watford away and Stoke at home. In fact, they haven’t beaten anyone at home since their victory over United on 30th August.
Even if they have scored just 12 goals from 108 chances created (nine chances per a single goal), the biggest strength of the hosts is their attacking line (via squawka.com). Gylfi Sigurdsson, Andre Ayew, Jefferson Montero and Bafetimbi Gomis can put any defence in the league to the sword. Montero is a real menace on the left wing as he already showed in both of our defeats to Swansea last season while Branislav Ivanović’s career has gone down the stairs ever since the Ecuadorian roasted him. Neither Calum Chambers nor Hector Bellerin could handle him last season and in both games it was Montero who made a perfect cross for Bafetimbi Gomis’ winners.
Gomis signed for Swansea on a free transfer and has had a solid start to the season (four goals in four matches) before fading away a bit (via Squawka). The Frenchman hasn’t found the net since the aforementioned victory against Manchester United but his strength will be a real challenge for our central defenders, especially Laurent Koscielny who has won 55% of aerial duels this season, a rather low percentage comparing to 80% of Per Mertesacker (via Squawka).
Another example of Swansea’s excellent transfer-policy is Andre Ayew. He signed for Swansea last summer on a free transfer and has made an immediate impact. The former Olympique Marseille man has scored five goals this season which makes him a strong candidate for the signing of the season. At least in “The Best Buy” category.
Gylfi Sigurdsson is a former Spud which probably means he doesn’t like us. He is an excellent set-piece taker as his free-kick from last season proved.
Of course, Lukasz Fabianski and Ashley Williams deserve to be mentioned. Fabianski has done well for Swansea ever since his free transfer from Arsenal in July 2014 with fifteen clean sheets to his name in fourty-nine league games (via Squawka). Ashley Williams is his best associate. The Welsh central defender has been a consistent performer in the Premier League for years and has given a crucial contribution to his national team’s first qualification for a international tournament since 1958.
What do Robin van Persie, Theo Walcott, Nacho Monreal, Gervinho, Serge Gnabry, Aaron Ramsey and Alexis Sánchez have in common? They have all scored league goals for Arsenal at Liberty Stadium since Swansea’s return to the top tier of English football. For different reasons, just two of the aforementioned players are going to play today – Nacho Monreal and Alexis Sánchez.
The Spaniard scored his first goal for Arsenal during our brilliant run-in in 2012-13. We won at Liberty Stadium 2:0 with Nacho and Gervinho scoring.The Chilean superstar gave us the lead against The Swans last season before Sigurdsson and Gomis turned the game around.
It’s worth mentioning two FA Cup goals scored by Lukas Podolski and Kieran Gibbs. Whilst Podolski is now at Galatasaray, Gibbs is still at Arsenal and considered for a left-wing position. His volley against Swansea in 2013 was spectacular.
It’s not just that we have three right wingers out due to injuries. We have six options for our right wing out. In case you have forgotten, Danny Welbeck is also a forward who can play on either wing, Jack Wilshere has been used on the right wing last season as well and Tomas Rosicky has also played there during his Arsenal career.
Petr Čech will take his place between the sticks. He’ll probably have to help his central defenders in aerial duels against Gomis.
Hector Bellerin has been excellent this season but he’ll face a real menace today. His partnership with (most likely) Joel Campbell will probably decide the outcome of today’s match.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny are likely to take their place in central defence. Mertesacker didn’t impress against Sheffield Wednesday but his aerial prowess is too important in a match against Gomis.
Nacho Monreal’s task won’t be much easier than the one of Bellerin. Ayew has been red hot this season and it’s up to the Spaniard to handle him. Alexis should help him by putting the opponents’ full-back on the back-foot though.
Francis Coquelin is the first name on the team-sheet. Closing down Sigurdsson and Jonjo Shelvey is extremely important
Santi Cazorla has been creating chances on a regular basis so I expect more to come today. He’ll have to help Coquelin with defending though.
Mesut Özil has been brilliant this season. Our main creative force should find a way to release Joel Campbell and Alexis Sánchez.
Joel Campbell is likely to start on the right wing. The Costa Rican forward has failed to impress but it’s fair to say he hasn’t had too many chances to shine. He needs a goal to break the duck and I believe he has enough quality and composure to do so. His left foot can produce magic and there is no better day to do so than today.
Alexis Sánchez has looked a bit jaded against Bayern and Everton but a rest against Sheffield Wednesday should make him fresh for today.
Olivier Giroud has scored just once against Swansea (in 2:2 draw at the Emirates in 2014) since his arrival from Montpellier. However, his responsibility is second to none in the forthcoming period as he is our only No. 9 available.
I would go for a narrow victory over The Swans. 2:1 for Arsenal with goals from Alexis and Giroud, Ayew to score a consolation goal for the hosts. A victory against Swansea would mean a lot ahead of a trip to Munich and a North London Derby next week. So, let’s gun The Swans down!