Pre-Match Report

Premier League: Arsenal v Swansea - Preview

Emirates Stadium

By Richard Clarke

"Success is a combination of talent, attitude and luck.

"You can say that talent and attitude provokes luck many times but sometimes your luck comes from the mistakes of your opponents.

"That is what happened on the day."

This was Arsène Wenger talking about the game against Swansea at Emirates Stadium last September; one of the most unremarkable games of the 2011/12 Premier League campaign and yet, arguably, the most important.

The only goal came just before half-time when keeper Michel Vorm's throw hit the heel of Angel Rangel and Andrey Arshavin pounced to score from an acute angle.

It was a piece of footballing fortune that sparked Arsenal's season into life.

They had come into the game on the back of that humbling at Old Trafford and unveiled a raft of new players - Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker made their debuts while Andre Santos, Yossi Benayoun and Ju Young Park were on the bench for the first time.

Arshavin's goal brought about Arsenal's first Premier League win in a game that, at the time, Wenger likened to a season's opener. The cloud did not lift immediately but certainly a new side was given a new beginning that day.

Arsenal would register seven wins and a draw in their next eight home games. The Swansea result heralded the first of two key periods last season which would propel Wenger's men up to third place by May.

Ahead of the repeat fixture, the manager recalled the game with clarity.

"It was a big, pressured game for us," he said. "After the defeat at Manchester United, it was important to respond and we did that.

"From then on, the pressure eased a bit and we became a bit more stable.

"But it was a game we had to win and we won it 1-0. Their goalkeeper made a mistake. Andrey scored. It was a little bit of a gift. But our confidence was very low and it was a very big three points for us.

"It gave us a new hope and brought some new belief. The attention was more on the new players than the bad result. That in itself helped the squad a little bit to forget about it.

"It was a scrappy win but a win and when you're low in confidence wins help you to get up again."

Arsenal's situation is much more secure right now - one defeat in eight games is a worthy record - but, like last year, they would still be satisfied with a victory of any calibre on Saturday.

Wenger's men may have avoided defeat but draws at Aston Villa and Everton have seen them drop down to seventh this week.

Saturday's opponents are directly below having swept aside West Brom, the surprise package of the Premier League this season, during the midweek round of matches.

Swansea's accomplishments are all the more impressive given they suffered the very thing that often stymies an over-achieving side - the loss of their manager to a major name.

Brendan Rodgers fashioned a fluent, hard-working outfit that pushed Arsenal at home last season and beat them away but, when he left for Liverpool the Northern Irishman took Joe Allen, the heartbeat of the side, along with him. It could have killed the dream.

However, former Real Mallorca coach Michael Laudrup took over and immediately introduced a number of signings from Spain. They have brought about spectacular dividends.

"There was a question mark created by their good season and then losing their manager," said Wenger. "But they have bought intelligently and of course that gives them the basis they had last year plus the addition of the players they have brought in. All that makes them dangerous.

"Of the signings, it is Michu who stands out because he gets the goals, but Pablo Hernandez is a very creative player as well while De Guzman is a complete midfielder, he can defend and attack.

"Overall Laudrup has bought well. I must say for someone who knows the Spanish market, it is maybe a good period to sign players because the clubs are in trouble financially and you can make bargains there."

As it turns out, Hernandez (thigh) will not be available. But Wenger has his injury issues. Bacary Sagna damaged his foot at Everton and Laurent Koscielny (thigh) will be out for a few weeks. Lukas Podolski should be OK after being laid low. The manager suggested that, with Champions League qualification assured, he may leave some players out at Olympiacos on Wednesday. You can deduce from that he will field his strongest line-up for the two home matches sandwiching the game in Greece.

It is somewhat difficult to determine Arsenal's form right now. The draws at Villa and Everton had individual merit but, seen collectively, you really wanted a bigger return.

"You could not fault our spirit, desire and commitment," remarked Wenger.

"In both situations, especially at Villa, you thought there was a goal in there but even at Everton you have to give credit to the team. After a Champions League game to go twice away from home and not lose is positive. Not to win is negative but in both games we had the opportunity to win the game.

"We lacked a little fluency in the final third to take advantage when we elaborated well in the middle of the park. Perhaps we aren't finishing well at the moment. We need to add that to our game.

"However I think the attitude and the quality of our base is very strong. We have improved our defensive record quite well in recent games. We are used to scoring more goals and that's what we want to add now."

A little bit of last season's luck would certainly kickstart the process.


Team news

Arsenal: Sagna (foot), Fabianski (ankle), Santos (abdominal), Koscielny (thigh), Diaby (thigh)

Swansea: Flores (doubt - shoulder), Graham (illness), Vorm (groin), Hernandez (thigh), Taylor (ankle), Bartley (thigh)

See Full List

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