We return to Premier League action against Swansea City on Saturday, and Rob Kelly previews the game with the help of Arsène Wenger.
“Where we stand at the moment is good, our results are good, but we also have to look inside our game to try to improve what we can.” - Arsene Wenger
It may just be us, but international breaks seem to be getting longer and longer - and they feel especially interminable when they come when the team is in flying form.
Having won five on the spin in the Premier League, it must have been particularly galling for Arsene Wenger to see his squad depart across the globe this time around.
OP = Outfield Players
It is an inconvenient situation for club managers, and the challenge facing the Gunners is to hit the ground running and rediscover the momentum they had previously generated.
That is easier said than done, especially when the next opponents are Swansea City. The Welsh club may not be having an easy time at the moment, but their record of three wins, one draw and just the solitary Premier League defeat against Arsenal commands respect.
“Before we played Chelsea I spoke to you about inconvenient facts relating to Chelsea, and another team with those stats is Swansea,” Wenger told Arsenal Player. “It’s another hurdle for us, especially with them having a new manager as well.
“Last year they were a big blow for us [when they won 2-1 at the Emirates]. The result against them in the Premier League basically ended our title hopes.
“It’s true that we were questioned at the time, but this time we are in better psychological condition. We’ve been warned and we have a good opportunity to show that we have moved forward, and that we can deal with these kinds of facts.
“It is about refocusing quickly and refocusing on the targets of the club after the players have been under pressure with their national teams,” he added.
“For us it’s important to focus on getting up to the next level and we want to improve. We are in a very difficult league where everybody is trying to become better and better so fast that it’s important we focus on how we get better ourselves.
“Where we stand at the moment is good, our results are good, but we also have to look inside our game to try to improve what we can.”
ONE TO WATCH
Shkodran Mustafi is making a mockery of the oft-spoken maxim that the Premier League takes time to adapt to for foreign players.
The German centre-back has been outstanding since his arrival from Valencia in late August, and the Gunners’ defensive stats highlight his impact.
|Arsenal: Ramsey (hamstring), Giroud (toe), Mertesacker, Welbeck (both knee)
Swansea: Montero (ankle), Llorente (rib), Fernandez (groin), Dyer (ankle)
When Mustafi has played this season, Arsenal concede an average of 0.5 goals per game, while without him that shoots up to 1.3 goals. It is a statistic that is slightly skewed by the opening-day 4-3 defeat to Liverpool, but his influence is clear.
The World Cup winner has already struck up a formidable partnership with Laurent Koscielny - christened Kostafi by the fans - and Wenger has also been impressed by the he conducts himself both on and off the pitch.
“That’s quite a surprise that he’s a character as well at such a young age,” the boss said. “Maybe being mature helps as well. The fact that he has been out for a long time in different countries at a very young age certainly has helped him grow in confidence quicker.
“He has good communication and good individual qualities as well. He’s also got strong commitment, is good in the challenge, good in the fight and you need those qualities in England because you’re tested very quickly.
“In the first two or three games they isolated him and tried to test him, so you have to be able to give an answer to show that you’re ready for the fight. That’s certainly an important part in his success.”
The table may not make for comfortable reading for Swansea City, but their performances have been better than their points tally suggests.
They took Chelsea to the brink of defeat, were unlucky against Liverpool and ran Manchester City close as well. They will certainly make life difficult for the Gunners, and will be hoping to impress the new man in charge.
|We have now kept four successive clean sheets - we last had a longer run in February 2009 (six consecutive shut-outs)
Petr Cech will make his 50th appearance for the club if he plays on Saturday
Laurent Koscielny’s goals have been worth four points to Arsenal this season – more than any other player at the club
Bob Bradley’s appointment is big news back home for the former United States manager, and has captured the imagination on these shores too.
Known as a hard-working and organised manager, Wenger expects his new team to mirror him - and says the Gunners must be ready for a searching test.
“Bradley has done very well in the States, he has done very well with the American national team and also has a very strong reputation over there,” Wenger said. “It looked like quite a natural appointment to me.
“What was most surprising was that they got rid of Guidolin so quickly. Guidolin is a very well respected manager in our job and he didn’t have a long stay at Swansea.
“Don’t forget that they have good players too who are technically at a good level. They are in the top technical range of the Premier League. Players like Sigurdsson are of top quality and can hurt anybody.”
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