My run of watching all of Arsenal’s game could finally gets broken, at 20. The last time I missed watching a game, was the incredible final day of the 2011/2012 season, when Arsenal narrowly beat West Brom.
Of course, thanks to the title race, which went to the absolute last second, the only two channels that telecast the Premier League in the country were occupied. Mind you, this was also the dark days before I could stream games on the internet, which would have resulted in bills that would have caused manslaughter, mine.
This time the reason is different. We are nowehere close to titles being decided by whiskers, and skin of teeth. And, luckily the game is being telecast live. However, I will be off to Goa, India’s very own Portugese outback, for a much deserved and craved vacation. With a bit of luck, I should be able to watch a bit of the match.
Ah, match. Arsenal come into this game, with a completely mixed run of results. A thumping win over Sp*rs, and a crucial win over Montpellier was followed by two drab and hard-earned draws against Aston Villa and Everton.
The game will also be preceded by the BSM (Black Scarf March), with fans demanding appreciation and respect from a club. Attribute it to a lack of success on the pitch, or the sales of the club’s best players, or the hike in ticket prices, and even the salaries of some of the fat board members, to the club’s reluctance to invest the fat wads of cash on quality players.
The BSM march has been on the agenda for quite a while now, and highlights how much the fans have lost faith in the board and the affairs of the club. It also represents the fact that the fans cannot be taken for a ride. The organizers of the march have urged the supporters to, however, show full support for the team inside the stadium, and lend their full vociferous support.
And yes, that will be paramount, as the team looks to arrest a further slide down the league table, which sees them on 7th spot at the moment. The team has come under criticism for a various number of reasons, including lackluster attacking, and a midfield that looks lightweight and one that can be easily bullied.
The midfield has looks increasingly jaded as the games go by. Santi Cazorla, still finding his feet in the league, needs a breather, and so does Mikel Arteta, who has done much of the dirty work. Additionally, Jack Wilshere has just returned from a major injury concern. With Abou Diaby injured, Aaron Ramsey has failed to live up to the expectations, and Francis Coquelin hasn’t displayed the tenacity and composure he had last season.
Up front, Olivier Giroud, who has played some role in all of Arsenal’s 20 games this season, showed signs of fatigue. Lukas Podolski, has had to be substituted in every league game this season. Gervinho has been woeful at best recently. The bright spot however is Theo Walcott, who has banged 10 goals, and looks in fine nick.
These are just some of the issues that need to be addressed ahead of an excruciating December schedule, which will see us play 8 games. Coming to our rescue, are the final Champions League Group game against Olympiakos and a Capitol One Cup tie against Bradford. Whilst qualifying with a top spot finish is important, Arsene Wenger will also have at the back of his mind, the need to rest his players.
The competition in the Champions League at the moment is so intense, that finishing first would still mean we could be drawing the likes of PSG, AC Milan, Real Madrid, Juventus and Valencia. And, the manager himself has told in the recent past, that you literally have to beat everyone anyways, to get to the final.
Arsenal’s fixture list has already seen them play some traditionally tough away games, at Stoke, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, West Ham and Everton. And, I keep saying, the record stands, at a not to shabby 2 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss.
Emphasis will be converting those draws into wins. The fixtures coming up, present us with exactly such luxuries. It will depend on us taking it up. Swansea is followed by West Brom at home, away games at Wigan and Reading, and back to the Grove, for home games against West Ham and Newcastle, before we start new year with a trip to Southampton.
These 7 fixtures will be absolutely crucial to whatever chances we have this season of winning the title, and even qualifying in the top 4, because these are games, usually dubbed as ‘must-win’s’.
Moving on, the manager has revealed his targets for the January transfer window, having been handed the mythical ‘warchest’. Two players could be on the agenda, as well as a loan move for legend Thierry Henry. The origins and the names of the two players remains a mystery, which only the CIA can crack.
The rumour mills have pointed out at strikers such as Huntelaar, Cavani, Llorente and midfielders like Cristian Eriksen, Lewis Holtby and Kevin Strootman. Plus, there are also the Wilfried Zaha rumours, something which Palace manager Ian Holloway, is not too happy about.
Right, team news then. Bacary Sagna seems to have picked up a knock, in the midweek game, while Lukas Podolski is expected to be fit, after suffering an illness. Tomas Rosicky returned to the bench, and it would be interesting to see if the manager starts him in place of the jaded Cazorla. Elsewhere, the big blow is Laurent Koscielny is ruled out for 3 weeks, due to a groin or hamstring strain (not sure which).
For Swansea, Danny Graham is expected to be fit, after he, like, Lukas Podolski, missed the midweek game due to illness. Spanish international Pablo Hernandez is out with a thigh injury, he suffered against West Brom. Chico Flores, is out with a shoulder injury.
Here is how I expect the teams to line up.
Swansea have proved to be a team that is hard to beat, and with such similar styles coming head to head, it could be either a game of many chances, or a closed tight one. It took Arsenal some help from Michel Vorm last season, to edge Swansea 1-0, and remember that game was the first after a certain Old Trafford debacle.
Enjoy the game wherever you are!
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