If you love passing football, then this one has quality and entertainment written all over it! Arsenal have started the season in superb form and sit proudly at the top of the Premier League with 12 points out of a possible 15. However, the mighty Jacks are also “purring”, following fine away victories against Valencia at the Mestalla and Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park, scoring 5 goals in the process. Add to that a draw against Liverpool in our last outing at the Liberty Stadium and it is clear that the squad is gelling very nicely indeed.
It was necessary for Laudrup to rotate the squad for the defeat against Birmingham City in the Capital One Cup at St Andrews on Wednesday night. The result wasn’t what we wanted but it remains important that the likes of Tremmel, Amat, Tiendalli and Pozeulo have time on the pitch. This will help to ensure that they are ready when needed, both in the Premier League and in Europe. It’s a long season and the strength of the squad is bound to be tested as we pick up injuries and one or more players have a dip in form.
Arsene Wenger was subject to a great deal of criticism again this Summer for his lack of activity in the transfer market. In fact his only notable signing came on transfer deadline day, when German international midfielder Mesut Ozil joined the club from Real Madrid for a cool £42 million. Most pundits were predicting a poor start for the Gunners, especially following a 3-1 opening day defeat to Aston Villa at the Emirates. However, since then, Arsenal have won 4 league games in a row and beaten both Fenerbahce and Marseille in the Champions League. Is this a case of proving the critics wrong then or should we take some comfort from the fact that apart from a 1-0 win against Tottenham, their other Premier League games were against the “beatable” opposition of Stoke City, Fulham and Sunderland?
Arsenal’s main strength is in midfield, where new signing Ozil is joined by the likes of England international, Jack Wilshere and the resurgent Aaron Ramsey. Welshman Ramsey in particular has started the season in fine form, scoring 6 goals in 7 games and has certainly silenced the “boo boys” at the Emirates, who pretty much wrote him off last season. Ramsey’s excellent start to the season has won him many plaudits and is also good news for Chris Coleman and the troubled Welsh national team. As if Ozil, Wilshere and Ramsey are not enough, Arsenal also have Spaniards Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta to call upon as well as Frenchman Mathieu Flamini. Fortunately for the Swans, Cazorla who on his day is one of the best midfielders in the Premier League, is expected to miss the game through injury.
Don’t forget though, Arsenal are not the only ones who are strong in the middle of the pitch, and the likes of Canas, Michu, Shelvey and De Guzman will all be looking forward to the battle ahead.
Jonjo recovered well from his experiences against Liverpool and put in a first class performance against Crystal Palace last Sunday. Michu has been on fire over the last couple of weeks and against Crystal Palace last Sunday he was practically unplayable at times, scoring one in the first couple of minutes of the game and having another disallowed in the second half. One of my highlights of last season was standing (yes standing) in the away section at the Emirates watching Michu score a tremendous brace in our fine 2-0 win. Arsenal Manager Arsene Wenger will therefore be well aware of what our Spanish genius can do and may look to the likes of Flamini to nullify his threat.
Fellow countryman, Jose Canas is also looking more and more accomplished with every game he is playing, helping to push the high standards set by fans’ favourite Leon Britton to even greater heights. Like Michu, at both Valencia and Crystal Palace last week, he was one of a number of players who was worthy of the man of the match awards. Canas is increasingly looking like our unsung hero, being happy to do the simple and unglamorous stuff, sitting in front of the back four, making challenges and mopping up any loose balls.
While on the subject of our Spanish contingent, it is clear to us supporters that they all have a very professional attitude and are eager to give their best for our club. Alvaro Vazquez has been the most recent addition, making his Swansea City debut at Selhurst Park last Sunday. Alvaro’s work rate and assist for Nathan Dyer’s goal against Palace were good to see and gave an early indication of what he is capable of once he settles in.
Swansea City: Michel Vorm will once again be in goals for the Swans, with Rangel, Davies, Chico and Williams in front of him in defence. A central midfield of Canas, Shelvey or De Guzman and Michu is likely, with Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer probably occupying the wide positions. Wilfried Bony will be the lone striker. There are plenty of options from the bench, which will be selected from: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Taylor, Amat, Monk, Britton, Pozeulo, De Guzman, Lamah, Vazquez.
Arsenal: Szczesny will be in goals, with a defence of Sagna, Gibbs, Mertesacker, Koscieiny. The midfield is expected to consist of Flamini, Ramsey, Wilshere, Ozil, Gnabry. Giroud will start up front. The bench will be chosen from the likes of Vermaelen, Arteta, Viviano, Monreal, Jenkinson, Miryaichi, Bendtner, Gnabry.
Arsenal have a number of injuries to key players at present, including Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott, Yaya Sanogo, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby, though it is possible one or two might be fit for Saturday.
Giroud has been amongst the goals this season already, and in addition to the stylish Arsenal midfield, we will need to be watchful of him on Saturday.
Kick off time on Saturday is 5.30pm and the match day referee is Mark Clattenburg (I’m saying nothing)!