Premier League action finally returns and with it does the actual football. This weekend promises to be very exciting for neutrals, as Chelsea take on Leicester in an early kick-off on Saturday, City face Everton on Sunday and United go to Anfield to try and slow down Klopp’s men. Oh, there’s also the small matter of Arsenal hosting Swansea in-between.
Think it won’t be a statement too wide off the mark from yours truly to note the Swans haven’t done particularly well this season, definitely not results-wise. My colleague and editor on sports.ru makes a compelling case Swansea weren’t actually that bad in terms of performances, as part of his wider point of view that it was stupid to sack Guidolin, but alas, he argues his point in Russian. Bump up your Russian, lads.
Anyhow, Bob Bradley takes the hot seat of Swansea’s manager, and it will be his job to help the Welsh side escape relegation. Last year they did so, quite nastily, at the Emirates in late March, so we’ll be hoping we learnt something from that. As, indeed, will be Arsene Wenger:
“We have a home game on Saturday against Swansea and that’s a good opportunity to show that we have moved forward. We were a little bit in a difficult period at that time and we were a bit unlucky as well on the day, I must say. But it could be a similar game.”
Let’s hope it won’t be. Which brings us to what can be changed. Which brings us to…
It appears Lucas Perez and Francis Coquelin are completely fit and in contention to start the game or, at least, make the bench. The Spaniard wasn’t mentioned in the injury update at all, which makes me think he’s alright (that, and Ben Dinnery), while on Coquelin Arsene said:
“Francis Coquelin is back available.”
Whoops. Not quite the dramatic effect I hoped for, but certainly a welcome boost. Perez is even more so, because I didn’t like our bare bench vs Burnley one bit.
However, Ramsey is still out:
“I must say I’m disappointed because he has worked very hard. He’s at the last stage of building up his fitness and he’s not far away.”
“Next week will come too early.”
And the problem is:
“It’s a bit of a vicious circle. He had a little setback, so we rested him. The longer that lasts, the more time you have to dedicate to build up his fitness again because he has been out for four weeks. Then you have to basically create a new three-week preparation to get him up to the level he was at before the injury. It’s more the time it takes to rebuild his fitness. We have decided that we’ll give him a complete pre-season, even if he misses one or two more games.”
Ain’t it heartwarming. A player who missed two months through injury needs another three weeks. There’s definitely something wrong about how our staff handle hamstring injuries. Not the first time three weeks become three months.
Giroud also remains out:
“Giroud will be a little bit the same because he has been out now, he has still not been on the pitches. I think he starts to have a jog again today for the first time so he has been interrupted a lot in his preparation. We have to build his fitness up again.”
Means we are without two pretty crucial players for three further weeks. Thank God our schedule doesn’t contain City, or United, or PSG during that period because our depth is wearing a bit thin when we add Giroud and Ramsey on top of the already long-term injured Mertesacker and Welbeck and the loaned-out Wilshere and Campbell.
Last few weeks have shown how Arsene is reluctant to change a winning formula. They have also shown that against a certain type of opposition (Southampton, Burnley) this formula is like skating on thin ice. While I don’t think Swansea will try and play the way Burnley did, expecting a team fighting to stay up under the guidance of a newly-appointed manager to go all guns-blazing at the Emirates is a bit on the unrealistic side.
With all that said, I think Arsene really ponders only one question: Xhaka or Coquelin? Both midfielders offer different qualities, each can do what his counterpart can’t, so it will be interesting to see who edges it.
My money’s on Coquelin. He was the original jigsaw piece in that winning formula and he started all the games (barring Nottingham Forest in the cup) prior to twisting his knee against Chelsea. Therefore, behold my predicted line-up:
Cech – Bellerin – Mustafi – Koscielny – Monreal – Coquelin – Cazorla – Walcott – Ozil – Iwobi – Alexis
It may sound incredible, but of the last three home games against the Swans we have won exactly none, losing two last encounters in a row. In 2014 we scraped a draw, after leading 2-1 then someone got sent off and then Flamini scored an own goal. What a mess. Overall we only have two wins in six league games against Swansea.
What gives me cause for optimism, however, is the Welsh’s side poor recent form (one point in six league games), compared to ours 16 points in six league games. We look to be on the up (don’t jinx it) and the blend of footballers Arsene has assembled is doing the job.
Let’s hope we pick up where we left off before the break, and, should things go our way, we’ll be able to strengthen our league position, as some leaders are bound to drop points this weekend.
Come on you Gunners.
Back with a review