Before every Arsenal fixture, we’ll bring you a Scouting Report on the Gunners’ next opponents.
Arsene Wenger's side visit Swansea City in the Premier League on Saturday, to find out more, we asked tactical expert Michael Cox and South Wales Evening Post journalist Stephen Ware for their views.
Since Swansea’s promotion to the Premier League, Arsenal have recorded a defeat, a draw and then a victory away at the Liberty Stadium.
It's a sign that the Welsh club can be difficult opponents, but perhaps also that Arsenal have understood how to play against them.
Whereas last season Michael Laudrup concentrated on evolving Swansea’s play, encouraging them to take more risks in possession than under his predecessor Brendan Rodgers, it’s interesting that Swansea have recorded the best pass completion rate in the Premier League this season, at 87.3 per cent. Both sides will be keen to dominate possession in this match.
"Up front, Michu’s 18 league goals last season made him one of the division’s most prolific forwards, but he actually prefers playing a deeper role as a No 10"
Swansea’s good ball retention starts from the back, and the defensive unit is the most settled area of the side. Goalkeeper Michel Vorm plays behind Angel Rangel, Chico, Ashley Williams and Ben Davies - the quintet have all started each of Swansea’s five games this season.
It’s in the centre of midfield where Laudrup has made significant changes. His favoured midfield partnership is Spaniard Jose Canas alongside Jonjo Shelvey, with the duo offering completely different qualities, perhaps stereotypical to their nationality.
Canas has a pass completion rate of 91 per cent and spreads play carefully and patiently, while Shelvey charges forward into attack, providing a goal threat and attempting passes to the attackers - his forward darts must be tracked.
Out wide, Pablo Hernandez is the only Swansea player to have recorded two assists this season, but he’s an injury doubt - so it’s likely Nathan Dyer will start on the right, with Wayne Routledge on the left. Both are right-footed, so Dyer stays wider with Routledge more likely to dribble into more central positions.
Up front, Michu’s 18 league goals last season made him one of the division’s most prolific forwards, but he actually prefers playing a deeper role as a No 10.
That means club record signing Wilfried Bony can start up front, although in the 2-0 victory against Crystal Palace last weekend, Alvaro Vazquez was used as the main striker.
Both Bony and Vazquez play on the shoulder of the defensive line, offering pace in behind and creating room for Michu in that pocket of space between the lines.
Swansea's formation is a pretty standard one at the moment. They play two holding midfielders with Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge out wide and Michu just behind Wilfred Bony up front. It's a system that worked well for them last season and seems to be doing so this year.
"Everybody talks about Michu being the main threat and I think that will be the case on Saturday"
The 4-1 home defeat to Manchester United on the opening day slightly flattered the Red Devils, they got a good point against Liverpool so despite a difficult start at home, I don't think it will be an issue as the season develops.
All the new players have settled into the squad pretty well. Swansea has the philosophy of being a very easy place to settle into. Bony has done pretty well so far and has scored a few goals but I think there is still a lot more to come from him. Jonjo Shelvey has made a good impact. He looks like he's got a lot to bring to the side although he will perhaps need a bit more time to gel with the others.
When opposing teams come to Swansea everybody talks about Michu being the main threat and I think that will be the case on Saturday. He was excellent against Crystal Palace last week and should have scored a few more goals. But it's not just his goalscoring ability, his link-up play has been excellent this season because he's been able to play a bit more of a withdrawn role with Bony leading the line. He creates space for other players and he also helps out defensively when required so he will certainly be the man to watch.
Swansea's games with Arsenal, as people have seen, are always very open. Both teams have got a good idea on how to play attractive football. The ball will be kept on the ground, both teams will look to use their wingers. There have been a few goals the on the last few occasions these teams have met.
Arsenal are in excellent form and Swansea have been pretty impressive as well so I think it will be a score draw on Saturday evening.
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