Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsène Wenger's side face Swansea City on Sunday. To find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox.
Swansea City have caused Arsenal problems since their promotion to the Premier League in 2011, and Arsenal travel to Wales just two points above their hosts in the Premier League table.
While Swansea are widely considered to have returned to their traditional, possession-based approach under Garry Monk, statistics from this season’s matches don’t necessarily support this belief: Swansea have averaged 50.1 per cent of possession.
They do boast an above-average 84 per cent pass completion rate, although Arsenal are the league leaders with 86.5 per cent, and will expect to dominate the ball this Sunday.
Swansea should start in a standard 4-2-3-1 formation, with former Gunner Lukasz Fabianski between the posts. The most notable quality among the back four is good ball retention - Swansea look to pass out from the back, working the ball slowly into midfield.
Ashley Williams is a strong, commanding presence who can distribute the ball positively, although World Cup finalist Federico Fernandez is still getting used to Premier League football, and can be vulnerable to direct dribbling.
Right back Angel Rangel starts many passing moves and pushes forward with determination, while left back Neil Taylor has a good left foot, but plays a steadier role.
"Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge have caused Arsenal problems before and know the system well"
In midfield, Monk depends upon the reliable, understated Ki Sung-Yeung, an excellent footballer who commands possession and distributes the ball out wide calmly. Alongside him, the dynamic Jonjo Shelvey is suspended, so Spurs loanee Tom Carroll should come into the side - he’s a more reserved player who uses the ball reliably, and fits into Swansea’s style well.
Swansea defend with two banks of four, but the wingers spring forward quickly and dribble at speed. Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge have caused Arsenal problems before, and know the system well, while Jefferson Montero is a more attack-minded option on the left, and delivers good crosses.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, who plays in the No 10 position, is the key player. He varies his position intelligently, collects the ball between the lines, and can shoot from range. Arsenal must prevent him from becoming involved, and force Swansea’s play to become disjointed.
Up front, Wilfried Bony is a tremendous all-round striker. He’s ruthless in the box but also good at working the channels.
As his heatmap from last season’s 2-2 at the Emirates shows, Bony is highly unpredictable with his movement. Swansea might be a patient side, but Arsenal must be careful of Bony’s pace on the break.
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