Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Monreal, Gabriel, Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Giroud, Alexis, Campbell
Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Gibbs, FLAMINI, Walcott, Elneny, Welbeck
Swansea: Fabianski, Naughton, Amat, Williams (c), Kingsley, Cork, Fer, Ki Sung-Yueng, Routledge, Ayew, Gomis
Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Fernandez, Fulton, Barrow, Sigurdsson, Paloschi
(The Arsenal Perspective by @JamrockRover)
The less said about Arsenal’s defeat at United on Saturday the better, but it has left a feeling for many fans that the Premier League title is beyond the team yet again. Arsenal are seen as serial bottlers thanks to their ability to implode when well placed and it seems that scenario has reared it’s ugly head again. With most of the other “big clubs” doing a Burton the title seemed to be there for the taking, but that’s just when Arsenal decided to go missing.
To be honest the team haven’t being playing well for a couple of months at least and there hasn’t been a convincing victory or display since the turn of the year at least. They had a chance to lay down a marker against a seriously depleted United team on Sunday, but ended up playing second fiddle to a team mainly comprised of youngsters and players who can’t keep a place in a team who had only won three of their previous 13 league games. The same old failings were there for Arsenal and the same questions we ask ourselves season after season have to be asked again.
There is a chance for the players to at least partially redeem themselves tonight when Swansea come calling. Swansea are struggling at the wrong end of the table and only just above the relegation zone, but that didn’t stop them coming close to taking a point at Spurs on Sunday. Unfortunately for Arsenal their near neighbours came from behind to win 2-1 and will now go to the top of the league if they win away to West Ham tonight.
Spurs look like the team most likely to win the league at the moment with 11 games to go and it’s in their own hands now after Leicester could only draw 2-2 at home to West Brom last night. Their next game is at home to Arsenal on Saturday in the early kick off and it’s a real six pointer for both teams. Spurs have won their last six league games and are the form team at the moment, but a win for Arsenal tonight and again on Saturday would put them level with Spurs at worst.
That trip they have to West Ham tonight is no easy task though and West Ham are unbeaten in their last 11 home games in the league. If Arsenal fall away and Spurs end up winning the title I cannot see a future for Arsene Wenger at the club. He’s losing the support of more and more fans as each season passes and that shower taking the title when it was Arsenal’s to win would be the final straw surely.
I’m certainly not saying it’s a scenario I want to see come to fruition, but it’s hard to deny that it’s a very real possibility. We’re forever hearing of the progress of the team and/or squad, but nobody could defend losing a title to Spurs as any sort of progress when Arsenal had their fate in their own hands. We’ll have to wait until May to make a final judgement on this season, but a defeat on Saturday would be a devastating blow no matter what the outcome of tonight’s game might be.
There’s an FA Cup replay away to Hull coming up next week too and I would suggest Arsenal need to play a strong team in that game as the FA Cup could be their best route to silverware yet again this season. It’s a very poor substitute for the league, especially if Spurs win it, but it’s better than nothing at all. So far the cup has been treated as an outing for the fringe players and those on the way back from injury, but it might just become a priority very quickly.
Swansea come calling tonight in dire need of points and they will be content to sit deep and try to hit Arsenal on the break. They very nearly got something out of their trip to Spurs on Sunday with a similar plan with Lukas Fabianski pulling off some magnificent saves to deny Spurs at times. He did the very same thing when Swansea hit Arsenal with a late sucker punch to take all three points in this fixture last season. He’s a good shot stopper, but he can be dodgy on crosses and that will hopefully be where Arsenal can take advantage of their former keeper tonight.
There’s a suggestion of plenty of changes from the team which performed so badly against United on Sunday, but I doubt if we’ll see too many. Surely Olivier Giroud has to come in for Theo Walcott who created a whole new level of “being ineffectual” in that game. There’s some suggestion of Aaron Ramsey moving to wide on the right, but I think Danny Welbeck will play there with Giroud central and Alexis Sanchez on the left again. As bad as Alexis has been since his return from injury he’s too good to be dropped and we have to continue to wait for him to find his form.
Giroud might not have scored in nine games, but he has still contributed far more goals than any other player and we need others to do their part if we’re going to improve. We have struggled for goals all season long and we have rarely scored enough to make us comfortable in any game. When you see how far behind Spurs we are on goal difference you realise how few goals we are scoring.
At the back there are bound to be calls for Per Mertesacker to replace Gabriel Paulista who was not at the races on Sunday. Mind you it was Mertesacker who faced those same calls after his performance against Barca and it’s probably a fifty/fifty shout between the two of them. Whoever plays the team have to defend better as a unit when called upon and cut out the stupid mistakes.
The season is not lost yet though and there’s still time to turn things around. A win tonight will put us three points off the summit with 10 games to play and that’s a position we would have been happy to take on many occasions in the last 12 years. If Leicrster and Spurs are the teams ahead of us in that scenario then all cannot be lost and the title is still a possibility.
The chances to sort out the mess are decreasing with each game, but it’s still not all lost. As bad as Arsenal can and have been they still have the ability to win the league, but they can’t do it unless they improve an awful lot. I won’t say I’m sure they will do so tonight, but the optimist in me still hopes they will.