Swansea City vs Arsenal, Liberty Stadium, Premier League
Kickoff – 16:00 (21:30 IST), 15 January 2012
So, finally Sunday is here. As a football fan, all you care about is muddling your way through a hectic week, to be able to catch your favourite team in action. And thanks to our friends in ESPN/Sky Sports UK, Arsenal’s fixtures are now being tampered with so that they can be shown live in the UK
This bodes well for us too, the fans in India, as now our fixtures won’t clash with the other well-followed teams, and they will be show live. It always riles me that Manchester United games are always shown live. But, you can’t complain. They are the champions, and even though every other football fan or wannabe’s you meet on the street, is a United supporter, and doesn’t know shit about the club, they deserve their matches to be telecasted. As for Liverpool, I am not so sure, how they get their preference above us. They finished 7th last season, 3 places below us, and not even in Europe. Bloody, their games are always live. They may have the second largest fan base after United, but that just undermines the whole point. Anyways, Arsene Wenger has been fairly critical of how the fixtures seem to be favoring some clubs and not so favorable to others.
Yes, if you can’t blame the players, blame the fixture list, eh? Well, he does have a point. Arsenal beat QPR on Saturday, and then went away to Fulham on Monday night. Manure lost to Blackburn on Saturday, and they had to play Newcastle away on Wednesday. Manchester City, too were at a disadvantage. Liverpool defeated Newcastle on Friday and then visited Eastlands on Tuesday to face City, who had just 2 days to recover after a 1-0 loss at Sunderland. Chelsea, on the other hand, who lost to Villa at home 1-3, made up for it as they beat Wolves 2-1. The Christmas period scheduling is very complicated. However, things seem to be easing out now.
So, now our fixture list says we have to travel to Wales, a town named Swansea, second largest after Cardiff, to play our Premier League game against the town’s darlings. Arsene Wenger has a bit of history with them, having faced them in the 1991 Cup Winners Cup. But then, Swansea was a completely different proposition and Wenger’s Monaco, which boasted the likes of Emmanuel Petit, who would rejoin Wenger at Arsenal; Youri Djorkaeff, who would help Bolton stay up, and the legendary Liberian George Weah; by a thumping 10-1 aggregate.
Talking of history, Swansea trounced Arsenal twice in the league 2-0 in the 1981/1982 season, when the Welsh club, on the bounce of 3 promotions in 4 years, took the old First Division by storm. They also secured wins over other traditional powerhouses Liverpool and Manchester United that season, also thumping Leeds United 5-1 on opening day, and despite being top on many occasions through the season, they eventually finished 6th. However, that revolutionary season ended there as Swansea soon dipped back to a nomadic life on the football ladder.
Today, Swansea is a changed team. Having moved from their traditional styled British stadium, Vetch Field, to the Liberty Stadium, they are now strutting their stuff with the biggest teams in England. They have a talented manager, Brendan Rodgers, who has inculcated in the team, a ’beautiful football’ philosophy. And, what’s more, they have conceded just 4 goals at home. Manchester United, are the only team to emerge with 3 points, even though they could have lost that game, had the Swans been more clinical in front of goal. Now, the Swans sit pretty in 13th place, 6 clear of the relegation zone.
Yesterday’s results have given some semblance of hope for Gunners’ fans that they will finish above their fiercest rivals Spuds. Spurs think they are a club with ambition. First, they qualify for the Europa League. And then, old man ‘Arry decides to play his youth team against the Communist inspired European sides. It bodes well, for them, as they play their strongest team in the league, and keep plucking 3 points of every game. It didn’t work last night, as Wolves did a piece of justice, by emerging out of North London, with their second point in as many weeks.
Liverpool, who just can’t seem to get 3 points at home, again slumped to a bore goalless draw at home to Stoke, while Chelsea scrambled past Sunderland 1-0. Torres, was particularly good. He was a goalscorer at Liverpool, yes, but now at Chelsea he seems to have shifted his role a bit. Now, he is overall a better player in terms of holding up the ball and allowing the others to come into play. Fat Frank got the only goal in that. Inspired by Thierry Henry, or not, I am not sure, but Paul Scholes scored against Bolton, after making a shocking return, an hour before the FA Cup game against Manchester City.
It means, that if Arsenal secure 3 points today, they will go 7 points within Spurs, with the Yids still having to play at the Emirates. And, who would win the battle. A stupid cockerel balancing on a leather football, or a loaded cannon? The answer is quite obvious.
Team news, then. Wenger seems to be keeping faith in the Russian, Andriy Arshavin, who did put up a decent display against Leeds. Henry, again, by the looks of it, could be an impact sub. But, till the teams are officially out, you never know. Wenger might just be tempted to play van Persie and Henry upfront. Speaking of which, van Persie is back after a well-deserved holiday in the Middle East. He was quoted as saying ‘that he has recharged his batteries and is raring to go’. Per Mertesacker and Tomas Rosicky seem to be having some sort of sickness, which means they will have a late fitness test. It will mean, we will be short at the back, despite the return of Johan Dhourou from suspension. The backline could be Yennaris-Djourou-Koscielny-Miquel. Should the BFG be fit, and I would certainly hope so, the defence would be Djourou-Mertesacker-Koscielny-Miquel.
Swansea will be particularly hard to break down. They have an excellent keeper in Michael Vorm. He is probably the best keeper in the league at the moment. Heck, he is in my Fantasy Premier League team! Mean, they may be, but a solitary Arshavin lucky goal, was enough to seal 3 points last time around at the Emirates, which started a small resurgence of sorts. It will take a lot more than that this time around to get 3 points.
Some good news then. Thomas Vermaelen could be back for the visit of Manchester United next Sunday. Kieran Gibbs is 10 days away from a a return and will probably start in the 4th Round FA Cup match against Aston Villa. Carl Jenkinson also seems to have attracted the word ‘good news’ by Arsene Wenger. Bacary Sagna, could be back by the end of the month. Francis Coquelin is 2 weeks away after tearing a hamstring against Leeds. Jack Wilshere, could make an early return by the start of February, to bolster the squad. Aaron Ramsey seems to be excited by this, and has told of his eagerness to link up with Jack in midfield. And, finally Abou Diaby, will surely be back by the start of the 2026/2027 season.
Hoping for 3 points tonight.