5th vs. 19th doesn’t sound very appetizing until you consider the position of both these clubs and what this match means to each side.
Arsenal has flirted with the outside of the Champions League for years, but has yet to be punished, as Arsene Wenger‘s 19-year streak of qualifying for the top European competition has survived. Now, with the Gunners on the outside looking in at the beginning of the new year, suddenly that feels in jeopardy as a host of teams seem legitimate contenders while the Gunners’ form feels like it is slipping.
Arsenal has turned things around on paper since two straight losses in mid-December, but they still have been unable to shake the mistakes. Most recently, Wenger and company took the entire match to come back against Preston North End in the FA Cup, with another comeback against Bournemouth needed to scratch their way to a 3-3 draw.
With a growing injury list that includes Hector Bellerin, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and Kieran Gibbs, the Gunners must not take Swansea City lightly.
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Meanwhile, the Swans could not translate Premier League success to a Cup victory, losing to lowly Hull City in FA Cup action last weekend following a galvanizing league win over Crystal Palace. Now however, a statement win could not only further boost the club, but could climb them out of the relegation zone with some help elsewhere.
Needless to say, this match at the Liberty Stadium bears great importance to either team.
The Swans will not have new signing Luciano Narsingh due to a calf injury, and Neil Taylor fractured his cheekbone in training. Otherwise, the hosts are healthy.
What they’re saying
Swansea City manager Paul Clement on Arsenal: “I saw them play West Brom so I have got my notes. It’s just I’ll be using them for Swansea instead of Bayern now. The notes are the same, just looking at what they do and hopefully take advantage. I’ll send Carlo [Ancelotti] a photocopy!”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Olivier Giroud: “When you face the situation he faced, either you feel sorry for yourself or you say, ‘I have a challenge I have to take on and work even harder’. That’s what he did. He benefits from the fact he has worked very hard and as well from the fact he is fresh at the moment where some other players have already played many games and sometimes need a little breather.”
Despite the 90-minute struggles, Arsenal has figured out to gut out results of late. Swansea has posed little threat for much of the year, and it’s hard to see them holding off the Gunners’ pressure that can be relentless at times, even if there is little offered on net. Arsenal takes this 2-0, even if they leave it late.