Pre-Match Report

Swansea City v Arsenal - Match preview

Liberty Stadium - Swansea City ground

“We were not happy after Bayern but we felt we had done our job by winning the game,” said Arsène Wenger.

“Now we have to keep the positives and be inspired by this result for the rest of the season.

“For us, every game is a cup final. Swansea is always a difficult place to go and we will need to repeat the game we had at Bayern Munich, it is as simple as that.

“Now it is about solidarity, fighting spirit and winning at all costs.”

Arsenal’s season is suddenly very simple - ten Premier League games and, pretty much, no mistakes.

Mixed feelings were understandable after that midweek win in Germany.

Bayern had not lost since October 28 and not been shut-out all season. The 3-1 first-leg win at Emirates Stadium had shown just why they are set to be crowned the earliest Bundesliga champions in history.

While Arsenal’s 2-0 win in the second demonstrated why Wenger has been continually suggesting there is much more to come from his side.

In the Premier League, the gap to fourth-place Chelsea is five points and it is seven to Spurs. But the latter have played one game more and their own European exploits mean both those sides play a day after Arsenal this weekend. With an international break after that and struggling Reading due at Emirates on March 30, you tend to think that, in the short term at least, this game is pivotal.

Wenger’s men are well aware they need snookers and the start of April is like entering ‘the colours’ – an area where nerves and momentum suddenly become crucial.

After the crucial defeat at Tottenham, the surprise victory at Bayern was the ultimate page-turner. But can Arsenal write a final chapter as conclusive and successful as last season?

“You do not go to Bayern with your backs against the wall and win unless you have quality. That is for sure,” said Wenger.

“We have two aspects to improve – some on the pitch and some mentally because remember that this team has not had real success. We need to increase their belief in their quality. That will bring us more consistency.

“And also we need to find the energy level we had at Bayern because we gave a lot. That is tricky three days after a Champions League away game but that's what is at stake.

“We’ll have to rotate a bit certainly but I think we have to go into this game thinking that there is an absolute necessity to win.”

"We know what is expected of us and we will not be surprised by their quality."

Arsene Wenger

Kieran Gibbs has had a small recurrence of his thigh problem. He joins Bacary Sagna (knee), Lukas Podolski (ankle) and Jack Wilshere (ankle) on the injured list. The omission of Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen in Germany was a surprise but, their replacements, Lukasz Fabianski and Laurent Koscielny were highly impressive.

Vermaelen’s absence was particularly noteworthy given that Belgian was installed as captain at the start of the season. However Wenger has always held a different view to many on the importance of the armband.

“In England, the captaincy has a massive importance,” he explained. “But, when you don't think it is the right selection, do you put the player in just because he is captain? That is disrespectful to the guy who doesn't play. For sporting reasons, it is not justifiable.

“Everybody faces the same competition and the players who come in have been on the bench for a long, long time. The job of a top-level competitor is to deal with that.”

It is only three weeks since Swansea lifted the first major English trophy in their 101-year history. In the past, the ‘League Cup’ final has had a detrimental effect on both winners and losers. Time will tell if the Welsh side feel their work is done this term. However they remain safely ensconced in the top 10 and boast 15-goal Michu, the fourth-highest scorer in the top flight.

“Nobody knows [how they will respond],” said Wenger.

“But they are in a good position in the Premier League, they have won some big games and they make it difficult for everybody. Let's not forget we played them twice in the FA Cup, so we have played them three times already this season. We know what is expected of us and we will not be surprised by their quality.

“When you look at Michu’s career, he was actually a Spanish international at Under-21, Under-23,” the manager went on. “He said himself that he lost his way a bit when he was a young player. But the potential was there.

“He is now mature and when you go abroad you force your nature a little bit.”

Manager Michael Laudrup signed a contract extension on the back of that Wembley win. Something that may help prevent him following Brendan Rogers and Roberto Martinez out of the manager’s office at the Liberty Stadium.

However the erudite, articulate Dane is much admired for his achievements in his first season in south Wales.

“He has done well while his team have been remarkably consistent and played good football,” said Wenger. “Rodgers was successful and he was a difficult act to follow.

"There was a big question mark against him when he arrived. But he already had a big experience as a manager. He was in Spain for years while he played at international level and in many different countries too.”

It is now the decisive time for Arsenal; there is less than 1000 minutes of football remaining in their season.

It is down to 10 games.

Ten vital games.

With the exception of Manchester United’s visit to Emirates, you could argue Saturday’s is the toughest of those remaining fixtures.

But Arsenal should have the greater motivation and, perhaps, confidence on the back of beating one of Europe’s elite.


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Thus far, Wenger’s men have been consistently inconsistent this season. However they have still done enough to remain in the race for the top four.

If they have bottled some of the spirit and steel from Wednesday night they may just yet get over the line.


Team news:

Swansea: Britton (doubt - hip), Moore (doubt - calf), Agustien (hip), Flores (ankle), Taylor (ankle)

Arsenal: Sagna (knee), Podolski (ankle), Gibbs (thigh), Wilshere (ankle).

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