Swansea City v Arsenal – Match Preview
Despite having lifted the Capital One Cup last month persuading Michael Laudrup to sign a contract extension might just rank as biggest victory in Swansea’s season. Not only have the Swans won a legion of new admirers under Laudrup they’ve performed better on the pitch and are just seven points short of last seasons total with nine games remaining. Laudrup committing his future to the South Wales club could act as the perfect motivator to go above and beyond that and nail a top six finish. Despite losing at West Brom last week they’ve won their last three at the Liberty Stadium and have the psychological edge on Arsenal after beating them in December’s reverse.
Arsene Wenger has placed great importance on the Gunners trip to South Wales as they look to follow up Wednesday’s Champions League victory at Bayern Munich by getting their top-four pursuit back on track. Despite exiting the tournament on away goals in Munich it illustrated, frustratingly, just how good Arsenal can be. With five points separating them from the top four a consistent run of form is required if they’re to maintain Wenger’s record of qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition in each of his 16 seasons as manager. To achieve that the North London club will need to reproduce the spirit that carried them to an unlikely win in Germany.
Lean Britton could feature for Swansea after making good progress in his recovery from a hip injury. Chico Flores (ankle) and Kemy Agustien (thigh) are out but Luke Moore could be back.
Kieran Gibbs won’t be risked by Arsenal despite recovering from a thigh injury, especially with Nacho Monreal available.
What the managers said…
“They are still five points behind fourth place in the Premier League and I think they will now be going for that, and they have to believe until the very end. They will try to keep this confidence, Arsene Wenger knows after Saturday’s game there is an international break, so it is very important for them. Chelsea are at home this weekend, so if they win and Arsenal don’t win here, they would be eight points behind and with only nine games to go that may be too big a gap. So it is a very important game for them to keep alive the possibility of going into the Champions League next season.” Michael Laudrup is out to crush Arsenal’s Champions League dream (Daily Mail)
“They [Vermaelen and Szczesny] are two outstanding players who are part of our squad. They have played so many games until now. Their position is very important in the squad. But every position is up for grabs. You have to face it like that, the last game decides the next one. All the players are in the same position. Nobody is guaranteed places in the team. Everybody faces the same competition and the players who [have] come in have been on the bench for a long, long time. They all have the same problem, the job of being a top-level competitor is to deal with that.” Arsene Wenger says Thomas Vermaelen and Wojciech Szczesny face a fight for their places (Guardian)
Pre-Match Statistic: If they beat Arsenal at the Liberty Stadium it will be first time since John Toshack’s side 31 years ago that Swansea won four successive top-flight home games.
Prediction: Swansea City 1-1 Arsenal
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