FA Cup: Swansea City v Arsenal - Preview

Pre-Match Report

FA Cup: Swansea City v Arsenal - Preview

By Richard Clarke

Here's a couple of statistics that may ease your mind ahead of a tricky-looking trip to Swansea in the FA Cup Third Round.

1) Arsenal have never gone out of this competition at this stage during Arsène Wenger's tenure at the Club.

2) The manager has more wins in January than any other month. 

Of course, such numbers are "damned lies" with no influence on Sunday's proceedings at the Liberty Stadium.

But they suggest, at least, that history is on Arsenal's side should it care to repeat itself.

And, as Wenger asserts, his side's results have been reasonable in the past month. Arsenal went into the New Year's Day fixture at Southampton on the back of four straight Premier League wins and, while he knows much more was required, the Frenchman classes the draw gleaned on the south-coast as one point gained given the patchy performance.

The only blip in that time was the defeat to Bradford on penalties in the Capital One Cup Quarter-Finals and, ironically enough, Swansea's appearance in the Semi-Finals on Wednesday is seen as potential plus-point for Arsenal this weekend.

Michael Laudrup's side have the sizeable task of knocking out Chelsea but the Welshmen have never contested a major cup final at Wembley and you could understand an unintentional, unconscious failure to fully focus this weekend.

But Wenger would never be one to assume that, especially as Swansea's 2-0 win at Emirates Stadium is still so fresh on the mind. Laudrup is getting the plaudits right now but this success story has been under construction for years.

"They are a team who have already shown last year they have a good technical level, that they can adapt," said Wenger. "They have coped very quickly with the Premier League and they tend to buy well as they've shown again this season with players like Michu.

"They lost Brendan Rodgers in the summer but they took Laudrup who is doing very well. Before him, they had Roberto Martinez, so they always find the right guy to replace the manager who is leaving.

"They have made intelligent decisions. Therefore they deserve a lot of credit."

One of the most intelligent was the acquisition of Michu, who hit both those late strikes at Emirates just over a month ago. Only Robin van Persie has scored more Premier League goals this season but, if you believe the reported fees, the Spaniard cost about an eighth of the price.

"He's a good player," said Wenger. "He's active, mobile and is good in the air as well. He's scored more headers than anybody in the Premier League so he has top quality.

"Swansea did well when they beat us but I felt, on the day, we were not really sharp physically because we had played in the Champions League the week before.

"We were not cautious because we were so desperate to win the game. We lost the game with three minutes to go but I believe that when you can't win the game, don't lose it.

"But that is the last game we have lost in the Premier League and, since then, we have been on a good run. Hopefully they will face a different Arsenal this time."

Certainly there will be one change. Gervinho, who started in that defeat, has left for the Africa Cup of Nations. Aside from that, Arsenal's injury cupboard is pretty bare. Lukas Fabianski (ankle) is the only genuine absentee. Abou Diaby and Andre Santos are only lacking match-fitness while Emmanuel Frimpong is back from loan but struggling with sickness.

The draw at Southampton was a jolt - not necessarily because of the result but the performance. Before that however, Arsenal had been healing themselves with nourishing, if not always dominant, victories.

Still they were getting the job done.

The blip brings back the age-old question of the FA Cup and its importance. But Wenger's record (see stat No 1) screams of seriousness and, in any case, fixture congestion is not an issue while the Champions League is on hiatus.

And anyway, with the unremitting madness that is the January transfer window, you can understand the Arsenal manager trying to keep everything simple.

"The FA Cup is important but then what is important now is our next game," said Wenger. "We are on a good run and we want to keep that run going. After that, there's always a lot of speculation. People always try to create a lot of pressure around every game but that's part of our job. But really we just want to win the next game.

"If you look at our results in the last two months, I don't believe we have been especially inconsistent. We have rebuilt the team and we have to show now that we can be consistent. That is the target.

"January as a whole is a fantastically important period for us. First of all of course there is the FA Cup on Sunday against Swansea. That is a difficult tie and it's important we come out on top in that.

"Also a victory is the best way to prepare our games against the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea who are coming up in the Premier League. Those will be very important of course.

"That is why consistency is so important now and why every game is massive. There is maybe less room for the top teams to win games than there was a few years ago. You could see that again with Chelsea losing to QPR last week. All the teams are difficult to beat and if you're not completely at your best, it doesn't work for you."

Swansea proved that little over a month ago at Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal need to redress the balance on Sunday.


Team news:

Swansea: Taylor (ankle)

Arsenal: Fabianski (ankle), Gervinho (international duty), Santos (match fitness), Diaby (match fitness)

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