With the mood decidedly (and understandably) sour since the weekend’s debacle against FC Youth of Manchester, tonight represents what Arsène would call an opportunity to show our ‘fight’ and ‘mental strength’ against a battling Seansea side that are looking closely towards movements at the bottom of the table.
For Arsenal it’s a shot at recovery, but more than that it’s a desparate lunge to cling on to any title ambitions that we might still harbour, however fading they seem to be.
Mesut is hurting. You could tell through his Twitter message last night, telling everyone that the players don’t need to be told how important the game is, so I’m expecting some intensity from all of the players tonight. They have to show that they have been wounded and the backlash must be felt against Swansea. Petr Cech has already said that we have to respond by getting six points in our next two games and whilst this appears the more likely on paper, history has shown that Swansea are never easy for us.
Since joining the elite in the Premier League, Swansea have had a draw and two victories, whilst we have only mustered one Premier League win at home. We haven’t beaten them at home in a couple of seasons and last year had a sense of familiarity about it, with Swansea starting with no recognised centre forward, playing with banks in front of their defence and a Lukas Fabianski determined to show that Arsenal were wrong to let him go. A late Batefemi Gomis goal added to the farce, but the same old failings cam to the fore.
We can’t have anything of the sort from Arsenal today, i.e. lethargy, expectancy that we’ll score eventually, profligacy in front of goal. If these players seriously think they can win the title, then they have to start performing like it, not like arrogant tiki-taka’ing, rudderless players devoid of ideas or forward movement. Those under-performing players need to shake themselves out of their own malaise and step up tonight.
I will be with them and I will be cheering them on. We need to get behind the team as much as possible and try to rally around them. If that happens, the hope is that the players will respond, by giving us the results on the pitch we need.
Swansea go into the game having only narrowly avoided defeat against the Spuds and they’ll be looking to catch us cold after Old Trafford. The previous incarnations of Swansea have been teams who want to dominate possession as much as possible and whilst there’s a new guy in at the helm at the moment, I still think Swansea will look to do the same, to try to keep hold of the ball as much as possible. I think they’ll sit compact though. Looking at the side that played in Spudland, you’d think that Sigurdsson and Ayew are the two big threats in their team from an attacking point of view. The Icelander is the creative hub of the team and is often the guy that can see the pass in between the lines of defence, so keeping him deep and avoiding the concessions of free kicks around our own penalty box, has to be key for Arsenal tonight. With someone as good as he is with free kicks – and we’ve fallen foul over the last couple of seasons – we can’t afford to give him anything because you just know he would score from Swansea’s only chance of the game.
As for us, the decision from Le Boss has to be mainly around whether Welbeck can play two games in four days, because if there’s any doubts then I’d suggest we save him for Saturday lunchtime. Ideally you’d like to see a front three of Welbeck, Giroud and Alexis, but if there are doubts over Welbz then I think rotation is a better option. But please, let’s not reward Walcott for his abysmal showing on Sunday with a starting position, eh? Perhaps a recall for Joel Campbell is in order? He scored at the Liberty Stadium and sometimes you just get players who always seem to play well against teams. If Swansea is one of those teams for Joel, then give him a shot. The other options are a dreadfully out of form Walcott or a raw Iwobi. Surely this is a chance for Joel? And I’m not even that much of a big fan of his, but the manager has to shake it up a bit, because Sunday’s showing needs to have repurcussions.
The possibility of an Arsenal defeat or a draw isn’t something that I’d quite like to countenance at this point in time. It’s entirely possible, obviously, but one has to hope that the players have been able to have a serious talk with themselves and will respond. Like, now. Nothing less than six points in our next two games will do anything to give any hope of a title push. We’re out of time now. The players have no more room and they have to perform.
Come on Arsenal.