09 May 2015

With Saints and Spurs sinking, we have some Swans to see off...

For the second week in a row, we wait until to do battle. With the Prem title in Chelsea’s hands, we turn our attention to finishing second, which would be our best finish since 2004-05 when we again finished behind Chelsea. Repeating that season, in which we also won the FA Cup, would position us as legitimate challengers to the Chelsea-Man City hegemony of the last few seasons. First, though, we have to fight our way past Swansea.

We have some scores to settle, clearly...
In any other year, a team in Swansea’s position might be counted on to start mailing it in. Sitting in eighth place, it would take an epic series of results to close the eight-point gap between them and Liverpool to finish fifth. However, Chelsea’s Europa League spot, earned by winning the League Cup, will go to the sixth-place finishers, and that brings us to the paradox. Should we win the FA Cup, this would earn us a Europa League spot—but this would go to the seventh place finishers. While that’s currently Southampton, Swansea are within a stone’s throw of them—just four points. Will this give Garry Monk’s outfit any further motivation?

Swansea do look a bit brighter than those above them; Southampton, Tottenham, and Liverpool have each staggered and stumbled enough to inspire the Swans to dream. This weekend already, Southampton and Tottenham have lost in ignominious fashion, and this opens the door for Swansea to move to within a point of the Saints and two of Spurs. If those circumstances aren’t enough, it’s worth remembering that this squad did kick us when we were down early in the season, winning 2-1 in November. While they might lack the fight or verve they showed, we shouldn’t underestimate them. Their 4-2-3-1, with old friend Fabianski between the sticks, has been strong enough to earn them some vital wins over bigger clubs. I for one am always a bit nervous when I see Ki Sung-Yueng; the Korean midfielder seems to have a knack for finding a stunning goal. Former Spur has been pulling strings for the Swans, notching 10 assists on the season. Shutting down service from him to Sung-Yueng would go a long way towards nullifying Swansea's ambitions.

From our end, we should expect to control the pace of the game and exploit Swansea’s wings, where Angel Rangel and Neil Taylor may struggle to contend with the pace and pressure we can bring to bear. By the time we play, of course, we’ll know how Man City and Man U have done. Regardless of their results, we have to feel like we control our destinies. As long as we don’t start looking past the squad in front of us (to next week’s fixture, for example), it doesn’t matter how the mancs do.  Defeat Swansea, and take one large step closer to finishing second.

LAST 3:
Swansea 2-1 Arsenal (09.11.204)
Arsenal 2-2 Swansea (25.03.2014)
Swansea 1-2 Arsenal (28.09.2013)

FACTFILE
The two clubs first met in 1981, a 2-0 win to Swansea.
Arsenal have won in nine of its last ten Prem matches.
Arsenal have not lost a domestic match at home since 22 November.

INJURIES
Danny Welbeck has been ruled out, while Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey, and Debuchy are doubtful but should be available if needed.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Ospina; Monreal, Mertesacker, Koscielny; Cazorla, Coquelin, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Giroud.

PREDICTION
While Swansea might have something to fight for, there is too much at stake for Arsenal to drop any points.

Arsenal 3-1 Swansea.

This preview first appeared at Goonersphere.com and reappears here by permission.