This is it, the home stretch. We finally got the Champions League distraction out of the way and we can turned our attention completely on the chase for the trophy known as “top four”. There are many ways to interpret that sentence, none of which involves me being castigated for stating that. So just put down the pitchfork and calm down because I’m not trying to be controversial. After a good away win against one of Europe’s top sides, I’m sure we are allowed to see the lighter side of things.
In more seriousness, this is really it. The chase to remain in the very same competition that we exited this midweek. A competition that is vital to our ambitions, to receive as much monetary reward and to ensure that players are motivated to join our club. Causality, one doesn’t work without the other. For that to happen, we have to go to Swansea today and beat them. We need to build momentum and put increased pressure on the sides above us in the league table.
After their well-earned win in Munich, it would be a shame for any of the players to be dropped. Confidence should be fairly high, despite the agony of thinking “what ifs”. Some players might have to be rested because of their midweek exertions but otherwise, it would be fair to expect the starting 11 to be almost similar. That means for the likes of Wojciech Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen will have to start getting used to fighting for their place from the bench.
One player who I want to see rested is Kieran Gibbs. Now, for him to play in such as high intensity game like in Munich for the full 90 minutes when he has only just returned from a medium term injury, it doesn’t help with his recovery. Fair enough, we needed him on Wednesday and Arsene Wenger decided to use him. Thankfully, Gibbs came through that without picking up anything serious. However, it would be wise for rest him today. The reason is simple, because we can afford to.
While Ignacio Monreal hasn’t set the pulse racing since his arrival, he has shown that he is more than capable of playing in place of Gibbs. Yes, what he did in the North London Derby was pretty poor but that was one bad mistake in a couple of matches. That is what we are able to do now, with the left back spot. The increase competition between two good players and the chance to give the other a break when necessary. Squad depth is a wonderful thing, isn’t it.
We all know today’s match won’t be easy. Swansea have proven more than once that they will offer stiff competition to us. Outplayed by them in the reverse fixture earlier this season, caused a lot of anger from the Arsenal side of things. That this smaller and cheaper version of Arsenal came to our ground and did what we normally do to others. We did recover the situation a little bit with the two performances against them in the FA Cup and hopefully we will be able to kick on from there.
Michael Laudrup’s side has already won the League Cup. That means passage to Europa League. Swansea are in a very comfortable position in the league table. Not mathematically safe from relegation but I’m willing to wager my house that they won’t be caught up in that dogfight. Question arises on whether the players are already thinking about their holidays or still retaining that concentrated competitive mode. Their performances since that win at Wembley would seem to suggest that they haven’t taken their foot off the pedal, yet.
Which means we will have a fight on our hands today. Our side will have to show the same tenacity shown in Munich. It is as simple a case as repeating what is proven to be working. Our pressing game worked on Wednesday and in fact, worked every time that we have done it. It remains a mystery why we don’t do it on a consistent basis. As we’ve seen in the last meeting at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea are contended to sit back and spray the passes around the midfield to defence and vice versa. Waiting for us to break formation before putting in a raking pass to the wide areas. If we press as a team, they won’t have to the time to find/make the right passes.
It’s about continuity from now on. The continuation of the good work that we put in against Bayern. About continuing the feel good factor surrounding the club right now. Continuing to win every game and make the teams above us shit themselves. Continuing to belief in themselves as well as trying to prove that Wenger’s faith in them is not misplaced.
Come on Arsenal.