Sunday saw Arsenal route Everton 5-2, with Ronald Koeman’s sacking confirmed just a day later. The Gunners followed that up with an emotional, come from behind win over Norwich in the Carabao Cup.
With Eddie Nketiah making himself known to the world, and a hungry Welsh team visiting the Emirates at the weekend, Arsene Wenger has spoken to the media.
So, without further adieu, let’s preview Arsenal v Swansea!
As we already know, Santi Cazorla remains out for the Gunners, while Shkodran Mustafi and Danny Welbeck are short-term absentees. The boss, at his press conference on Thursday, confirmed that David Ospina is also unavailable for the weekend, but has returned to training.
Calum Chambers has also began training with the first team again, although was short for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win. So, with the only player currently returning not being given many minutes this year, we can expect a very similar starting XI to the one that thrashed Everton on Sunday.
From Arsene Wenger’s press conference,
“The only players who are not completely back are Mustafi and Welbeck. Calum Chambers is back in full training on Monday and Ospina has a chance to be available against Belgrade. He will not be available for Saturday.”
No doubt you’ve heard of him, although if you said you knew all about him in the 80th minute on Tuesday no one would have believed you, by now. This young man almost single-handedly won the Cup tie on Tuesday night for the Gunners.
The boss had high praise for the youngster, but, of course, told the media on Thursday he plans to gradually bring Nketiah into the first team.
“He will continue to get a chance…if he continues to develop. It’s two things. You cannot think that a guy is ready to play in the Premier League straight away because he’s scored two goals. He has to continue to develop. If he’s scores two goals, there’s some quality there that we have to take care of.”
Social media speculation earlier in the week suggested that fans want to see the boy on the bench against the Swans, but our man Arsene’s words perhaps suggests that Nketiah will get a chance in the next round of the Carabao Cup, or perhaps the Europa League, and not in the Premiership.
The boss also suggested that Walcott will continue his role in ‘lesser’ competitions instead of re-joining the starting XI in the League on a weekly basis. Wenger figures that since the team is playing no less than twice per week, a rotation policy must be pursued.
“His time in the Premier League will come. All these guys (who’ve started mid-week matches) you look at the number of minutes they’ve played, since the start of the season, it’s quite a big number of minutes they’ve played.
But, I’ve gone into a rotation policy because we play Thursday-Sunday most of the time, so at the moment he (Walcott) has got less minutes in the Premier League than in other competitions.”
Wenger’s use of the term ‘all these guys’ will also fuel speculation that the likes of Olivier Giroud, Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi are perhaps fated to play during the week until, perhaps, the New Year.
After all, the FA Cup does not start for Arsenal until January, the Quarterfinals for the Carabao Cup are in December, as is the final match-day of the Europa League Group Stage.
The Swans sit in 15th place in the League Table currently, having taken 8 points from 9 games so far this year. That is split into 2 wins, 2 draws and 5 defeats, while the team has scored 6 and conceded 10 thus far, for a goal differential of -4.
Both wins came in 2-0 victories, first over Crystal Palace away on August 26, and the second over Huddersfield on October 14. The Swans’ draws were both goalless affairs, first with Southampton on Opening Day, then at Hots**** on September 16.
Swansea has also played three matches in the Carabao Cup, winning over MK Dons and Reading, but falling to Manchester United at home on Tuesday.
Manager Paul Clement, formerly of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, PSG and Chelsea, has been with the club after it parted ways with ill-fated American Manager Bob Bradley in January. The Englishman then guided the Welsh team to safety, taking 26 points from 18 games to heave Swansea from the relegation zone.
Overall, Clement has been in charge for 32 games, winning 13, drawing 4 and losing 15.
Swansea’s squad has been bolstered with the summer arrival of Renato Sanches on loan from Bayern, making the center of the park very strong for the Welsh team. Other parts of the pitch, however, are thin, such as left-back where Martin Olsson is the only real option for Clement.
“The balance is slightly off because we’re a little bit heavier in midfield than we would like. We’re a little bit short at the back, particularly the left-back spot. Martin (Olsson) is playing and who’s pushing him? If there is an issue, who would be able to step in?”
Expect a defensive approach from the Swans when they visit the Emirates, but one has to wonder if their lack of depth in defense will leave them open to the potent Arsenal attack. Especially with the expected front three of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette.