Swansea Preview: Accidents Will Happen? Really?

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Swansea City arrive at The Emirates tonight proving that a season is a long time in football. Gone is the next brightest thing in football management with Michael Laudrup replaced by the affable Gary Monk. The Welsh club have struggled this season and sit just four points outside the relegation places. I am sure it is not how they planned their campaign, looking forward to the Europa League and consolidating their top ten place. Now it is a case of hoping that none of the bottom five suddenly get their act together.

They might have looked at this fixture with some trepidation. Arsenal were showing signs of recovery following defeat at Stoke, their second in four games at that time. Everton had been disposed of in the FA Cup followed by victory in the North London Derby. Then for the third time this campaign, they capitulated when faced by a title rival and whilst Swansea fell to a narrow defeat at Everton, Arsenal suffered a crushing blow.

The players, manager and coaching staff have to react to Saturday. Mikel Arteta’s words might be well-intentioned but I am not interested in him telling us that they will react to the Chelsea defeat in a positive manner. It isn’t about reacting tonight, this is about the rest of the season as well. There are eight Premier League games remaining and Arsenal’s target is not just 24 points, it is to win convincingly. That is not just down to the scoreline. In 1997/98, Arsenal dropped two points between the end of January and April but didn’t concede a goal in eight games. Five of that run finished 1 – 0 to the Arsenal and a United supporting friend said it was the most soul-destroying time for him. He knew that Arsenal were playing so well that a goal for them meant victory. Arsenal dominated those games and were convincing in victory; it’s that level of performance which the players must strive for. It’s those performances which convince supporters that the squad can achieve something in the future.

More worrying for me are Arsène‘s words,

An accident has happened, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a good driver.

It just means that we have played about 40 games this season and it’s not what happened on Saturday that reflects the quality of this team. We have 62 points that we earned hard with quality games and that’s what we want to focus on, to get back to that quality. We go back to basics.

Of course you need to analyse as well the fact that we were down to 10 men [at Chelsea] and the offensive quality of Chelsea on the counter-attack is very good.

You have to put that into perspective, we just came out of two convincing results at Bayern Munich and at Tottenham with a very solid defensive performance so you have to think that [Chelsea] was an accident. How do you deal with the accident? You repair them, you repair the damage and you go for the next one. The response has always been very strong and I’m convinced it will be again on Tuesday.

There is so much with that which is at odds with reality. How can Chelsea be viewed as an accident? Manchester City 6 Arsenal 3; Liverpool 5 Arsenal 1; Chelsea 6 Arsenal 0. If the same accident happens three times in a season, sorry Arsène that means you are not a good driver; it hints at a reckless one who doesn’t learn from previous mistakes.

And what of the responses previously? Neither of the goalless draws after Eastlands or Anfield was a convincing performance. There was a nervousness in both with an unwillingness to press home any territorial advantage lest punishment be exacted by Chelsea or United. Arsenal need a stronger response, need a convincing performance and luckily for them, they face the sort of team who they have been able to produce those against; one from the lower reaches of the table. If we are to judge the Arsenal team this season, the assessment is that they are no better than the fourth-placed team in the country which is the same as last time around. You can introduce any sort of argument about United floundering but that is irrelevant; Arsenal are fourth on form.

So how is that better than last year when arguably the title race is more open this time around? Arsenal are a team which will beat anybody below them but are a long way short of genuinely challenging for the title. You’ll tell me that we’re challenging now, only defeat on Saturday has knocked us out of contention. Well, there are other dropped points which have that impact but the truth of the matter is that on 30th November Arsenal were seven points clear, we are now seven points behind. It’s a fourteen point swing that represents the fixtures played in between. Yes, they were harder, there were better teams in clusters of matches but realistically it shows we were flattering to deceive. But if Arsène genuinely thinks Saturday an accident and that view is unchallenged internally, we have a fundamental problem in the psyche of the club.

There will have to be changes to the starting line-up but they will be limited with essentially the same squad adding Hector Bellerin. Laurent Koscielny’s calf injury means he will be replaced by Thomas Vermaelen whilst reports yesterday morning suggested Wojciech Szczesny is set to be held to blame for Saturday. If that is the case, others will be nervous about their places. But let’s be honest, Bacary Sagna was the only player who came away from Stamford Bridge with his reputation intact.

Whilst Szczesny was not perfect, I did not think he played that badly, certainly not enough to be dropped. To my mind, that decision would smack of a knee-jerk reaction rather than any sense of ruthlessness. A need to be seen to be doing something, anything, the perception of action. Szczesny made saves at White Hart Lane which kept the points travelling back along the Seven Sisters toward civilisation and has, I think, overall been in decent form. I know some people don’t like his cockiness but that is his personality and having an ego is not a bad thing so long as it is channelled correctly and backed up with actions. Football memories are notoriously short and it was not so long ago that his improvement in form was being cited as a reason for the elevated league position then occupied.

Unless Nacho Monreal has recovered, Kieran Gibbs will continue at left back but in midfield, Mathieu Flamini will return. Whether it is at the expense of Oxlade-Chamberlain or Arteta remains to be seen. In fact, if you look at the bench from Saturday, what options does Wenger have? Gnabry certainly on the right but Kallstrom hasn’t played for months and isn’t match fit so that option is gone. Jenkinson? There won’t be many changes tonight no matter how much they are needed. The only one I would make is Podolski leading the line and Giroud rested but the lack of depth means that he will start on the left, Oxlade-Chamberlain the right and Sanogo up front:

Szczesny; Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs; Flamini, Rosicky; Gnabry, Cazorla, Podolski; Sanogo

Only Sanogo and Sagna did not play in the capitulation in the corresponding fixture last season. It isn’t just this season which needs a response. Tonight the players need to give it. MUST give it.

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

 

 

 

512 thoughts on “Swansea Preview: Accidents Will Happen? Really?

  1. C

    There is no way Giroud should get a new contract.

    It’s just laughable.

    I have nothing against him, but his performances do not warrant a new contract.

  2. Let the fight for fourth begin…..

    This is when the season really starts for us. Oh, the joy and the excitement……

    Beats competing for the title this.

    Thanks Mr. Wenger.

  3. And the best sarcastic comment award goes to:

    Moe says:
    March 25, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Fourth it is then.

    Alright did everyone bring their annual ‘Fight For Fourth’ jumpers?

    consolsbob says:
    March 25, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Can’t wait to hear the players call to Arms for Saturday.

    Put the fear of God into City.

    Dukey says:
    March 25, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    Nothing a bit of buffing wont do!

    till we crash our vw against city.

    then repair it for the runin over the line for 4th.

  4. Wenger enjoyed the fruits of his success with Arsenal in the early years bc he had a monopoly on knowledge of foreign players (particularly France who was going through a vintage period)

    The league has changed since the arrival of Mourinho (and later City’s Sheik)

    We have been pressed from above with better (foreign) managers and expensively assembled teams (City today looked like us of old)

    At the same time, the equitable distribution of TV money has also exerted pressure from below. Where teams use to bemoan us for not being English enough, many of the less well heeled teams (Swansea say) are able to employ some very good players from abroad. As such, our ability to dictate possession has diminished over the recent seasons.

    I think Wenger wanted to recapture some of our strangle hold with the purchase of Ozil (whose bemoaning his ‘poor’ performances now?)

    I don’t think our squad is not competitive in numbers or quality compared to our immediate peers in the league by any means, but it is as per usual fundamentally lacking in one department. With margins this fine, that slight defect is telling.

    No surprise then that our competitors have been putting away teams with aplomp and racking up impressive GDs at the business end of the season where we have been scrapping for wins at best.

    Giroud is a good striker but he plays a physical game particularly useful against teams who park the bus. he needs close support to thrive. We are lacking a pacy striker (for some seasons now) who can operate on his own and crucially provide the extra bit of magic for us.

    Considering the work we will have to put in reconstructing some of the defense this summer (Sagna, Vermaelen, Fabianski), we would have been better off adding the striker in jan when we were in a good position in the league and an attractive proposition.

    I understand Wenger likely could not find value then and did not want to incur opportunity cost down the line in the summer when some good players (Costa, Manzukic, Falcao and Benzema) may come available. But we face increase competition then and could have at very least taken someone say like Pato on loan with an option to buy as a wild card up front.

    @24, he has good years ahead of him, needs reinvention, is pacy and tricky, has plenty of Cl experience (considering we were drawn against bayern, would have been useful to have as an outlet with us defending deep likely for prolong periods). Crucially he was also NOT cup tied.

    Added to that, rather than extend Rosicky (as much as I like him), we should have grabbed Konoplyanka (in light of Walcott’s injury). The Ukrainian is affordable (Liverpool were bidding 16m) and is a Hazard type player who has (again) pace and trickery at LW but able to play across midfield. Considering Santi will have to be replaced in a couple of seasons, it would have made sense to bite the bullet on this one and over load our attacking options.

    And considering our parlous injury record, it really makes sense to overload (by all means borrow Kallstrom too)

    But wenger never learns. He’s got a bit closer with the Ozil signing yet considering our resources, why not bridge the gap, err on caution rather than take the risk that our players existing (young ones in particular) will come good.

    Yes, granted Ramsey has come good this season but we tend to forget that his learning curve last season was in a number of games achieved at expense to our campaign.

    Yet in general I do think Wenger has done well over the seasons finishing a minimum 4th because of his acumen in the market. Rather we have been unable to bridge the gap to the top bc he has been found wanting tactically against the better sides.

    Hence the drubbings by our immediate peers.

    Chelsea did not play a particularly offensive line up with Matic and Luis holding midfield. Rather MOurinho (for all our bile against him) out foxed Wenger. he knew wenger would deploy Chamberlain closer to the middle with Arteta holding on his own (something similar to Flamini holding on his own against City). The idea was to use matic and Luis as a sponge, turn over the ball and work the flanks. with our fullbacks unduely commited up front, we were taken apart with ease.

    This is not to say such a mistake could not be remedied. The real issue with Wenger is not that he gets his tactics wrong. All managers will do this from time to time (although most would want to repeat it).

    the real problem lies with Wenger’s inability (or should I say reluctance) to switch things round tactically in a quick and decisive manner.

    Instead of making necessary adjustments (subs) from the sideline when his team appeared lost, Wenger prefers to wait things out and let the team work out the kinks on their own.

    Big mistake. he gets partially vindicated against poorer quality teams but against the top teams, we are punished because of his self elected hesitation. Hence the drubbings.

    Maybe another quality player (or two) could add just enough to flatter these shortcomings but the tactical issues Wenger has have been with us for some time now and will continue to bug him if without remedy.

    We were suppose to have reignited Wenger’s relevance to the modern game with his 1000th game in charge. Instead it is a watershed in his consignment to history.

    I am a massive fan of the man but (barring a miracle), I am no longer convince that he is the man to lead Arsenal into the future. The unknown is of course the only thing holding us back from tempting fate (see United). But surely he has moved us at best laterally where we must find a way to push upwards away from the (admitedly lofty) stagnation of consistent CL qualifications but no cigar.

    I’m not so sure he may extend either. We have the FA cup left to win (bar fuck up all too common now)

    But even that trophy is at best a retirement Rolex, a F all consolation prize in the bigger scheme of things.

    the cup with a third or higher placing maybe could represent progress and may just convince him that he should stay a season longer to mitigate a decent transfer of power to an annointed successor, but short of that achievement, I don’t see any reason to be hopeful he should be around to turn things about. And then we enter a very dangerous period which could pay off or go horribly wrong for the club if the path is not well chosen.

  5. For a long time now we have hung on to the coat tails of the other teams in the top four, not good enough to win the league but still able to get into CL every season. Each year we wonder whether we have enough about us to hold off the chasing pack and prove that we are still ahead of those who are trying to catch us. Already discussions have already come round to fight for fourth place this season and whether or not we can hold off the chasing pack again. But hold on, one of the chasing pack has already caught us and passed us. If it wasn’t for Man U’s abysmal transition season we would already be out of the top four as Liverpool, with a more dynamic young manager, have streaked past us. Now we are hanging on to fourth by our finger nails as Everton hunt us down. They are six points behind us with a game in hand and in a couple of weekends time they could be level with a game in hand. The momentum is with them and the battle for fourth could already be out of our hands.

  6. Some snippets from The Sun today.

    The journalist says:

    “For more than an hour Arsenal were simply awful as they struggled to shake off the hangover of Saturday’s humiliation at Chelsea.”

    “Neil Taylor was left with acres of space down the left to deliver an unchallenged cross into the penalty area, where Bony rose above Thomas Vermaelen to plant a firm header past the static Szczesny.”

    Arsene says, “The result was very disappointing but the spirit we put in was great.”

    I tend to agree with the journalist rather than the manager.

  7. dont get too upset over arsenes comments..
    its nothing new the spin doctor is trying to operate but nobody gives a fuck anymore..

    everyone knows we were crap apart from 2mins where podolski got after them…

    apart from that it was 88mins of negative posession and comical defending..

  8. everton will push us close but i can see them catching us..
    once we get everton out of the way our fixtures are realitively easy for a top 4 side and they are on a 6 game winning streak they will have to win the rest of their games to make sure and although they are a good side i cant see that happening..

    my biggest concern is how we regard the fa cup now..

    do we see it as a hinderance in fighting for 4th in which case we’ll chuck it or will we go all out for it and collapse under the pressure..

    either way i cant believe its come to being top at xmas with 140mil sat in the bank to holding onto 4th from everton
    well i can, its a wenger trait and it was seen coming but its not acceptable.. hasnt been for a couple of years now but no doubt theres still a few people who will want this for another 3 years..

  9. ive been up quite a few hours coz im ill and cant sleep right and had alot of time on my hands so i decided to stalk some other blogs and read through their comments section with interest…

    theres lots of over the top comments ranging from the spectrums of wengers a mentally ill cunt to its all the fans fault we lose and have injury crisis etc…nothing new there then…

    but the general consensus is..win the fa cup and leave..

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