13 January 2017

Will Arsenal shake their Swansea-struggles? Lucas Pérez says si...

At first blush, a trip Swansea might be just the balm to sooth Gooners' frayed and tattered nerves after leaving it awfully late in recent weeks at Dean Court and Deepdale. However, a closer look at Arsenal's record at home or away to the Welsh side suggests that we'd do well to be wary, even if they've now named a fourth manager in one season, have shipped 45 goals across 20 matches, and are likely paying closer attention to goings-on in the Championship than in the Prem.

Paul Clement is now at the helm, bringing with him an impressive resume that includes assistant manager's stints at Chelsea, PSG, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, all under Carlos Ancelotti, during which time he surely has picked up a trick or two about managing (even if Swansea boast somewhat fewer galácticos than he'd grown accustomed to in those stints). In any case, he's bound to bring with him a bit more nous and inspiration than his predecessors. The shambolic Swansea that had conceded 13 goals in four matches under Bob Bradley looked much improved in two matches under Alan Curtis, and Clement is likely to at least sustain if not build upon that improvement. The mood around Liberty Stadium has been gloomy at best, but Clement's reputation and achievement, if not his tactics, could mark a turn-around in Swansea's fortunes.

As such, Arsenal should look to its own recent struggles rather that take Swansea for granted. We've had just about enough of the conceding first followed by the dramatic comebacks, thank you. Swansea waltzed into the Emirates last season and took all three, and we were fortunate to escape their October visit with a win when a red card to Xhaka left us at ten men defending a narrow lead for the last 20 minutes. Whatever the source of our malaise, be it against Swansea specifically or against anyone more generally, this is one of those matches from which we most absolutely seize the early advantage and take all three points. Late winners and equalisers are wonderful, but they come at a cost. Score early, as we should, and we can defend a lead rather than chase that late goal.

Against that backdrop, then, I'm looking to Lucas Pérez as one to seize the day. Though unheralded upon his signing, he has shown his quality, and it was his efforts and workrate against both Bournemouth and Preston that made a massive difference. Whereas others in the squad have looked jaded or enervated, Lucas has looked lively. With Walcott still nursing a stubborn injury, Lucas is a natural selection. He's made the most of his time against lower sides in the past and looks ready to do do some damage against Swansea.

LAST 3
Arsenal 3-2 Swansea (15.10.2016)
Arsenal 1-2 Swansea (02.03.2016)
Swansea 0-3 Arsenal (31.10.2015)

FACTFILE
The visiting side has won three of the last four fixtures.
Swansea have conceded two goals or more in seven of their last nine.
The clubs first clashed on 6 March 1926, a 2-1 win to Swansea in the FA Cup.

INJURIES
Elneny is off representing Egypt at AFCON, and Cazorla, Debuchy, Coquelin, and Mertesacker are all out. Gibbs, Walcott, and Bellerin face late injury-tests are are likely unavailable.

POSSIBLE STARTING XI
Čech; Monreal, Koscielny, Mustafi, Gabriel; Xhaka, Ramsey;  Alexis, Özil, Lucas; Giroud.

PREDICTION
After sleepwalking through first halves in recent outings, expect Arsenal to come out eager to seize an early lead en route to a comfortable victory.

Swansea 0-3 Arsenal.