Having battled hard to emerge victorious despite trailing at Deepdale last Saturday in the FA Cup, it’s back to business in the Premier League for Arsène Wenger’s side.
On an unbeaten run of four games since consecutive 2-1 defeat against Everton and Manchester City before Christmas, Arsenal will be eager to keep pace with the teams above them when they travel to south Wales ahead of a tricky test against Alan Curtis’s men.
News updates about the futures of Alexis Sánchez and Mesut Özil continue to dominate and questions were once more asked, especially after the latter revealed his desire to know the future of Wenger at the club before committing his future in north London.
Wenger had this to say on whether Mesut’s words has put pressure on him to sign his own contract extension, “No, not necessarily. I think he has been a bit misinterpreted. He would like to know what happens on the managerial front of course, but I don’t think that’s the main part of his decision… There are many other ingredients in every negotiation, hopefully we will find a conclusion with him very quickly.”
The creative midfielder is back in the fold and could feature from the start against Swansea, having fully recovered from an illness which saw him miss three matches in succession.
With Wenger’s own contract set to expire at the end of June, he revealed the fact that he is no closer to making a decision about his future at the club.
“No, I have nothing to add to that at the moment. I am completely focused on us getting back to the top and to work very hard in every single game and prepare well.”
That is sure to encourage Arsenal supporters especially with a tough run of fixtures in the coming months. Maintaining focus and performing to a consistently high level will be important if the team can manage an unlikely title charge.
Fresh from putting pen to paper on a new deal, centre-back Laurent Koscielny will be expected to return to the starting eleven.
First-choice goalkeeper Petr Cech, Özil and Alexis are also set to return having been omitted from the FA Cup matchday squad in place of youngsters and fringe players.
Hector Bellerín (ankle), Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin (both hamstring) are all sidelined with their respective injuries. Wenger suggested both Bellerín and Coquelin could return before next week’s fixture against Burnley but revealed Theo will be injured for longer than initially expected, with a three-and-a-half week timescale on his recovery time.
With nine goals and five assists across all competitions despite a lack of starts, Olivier Giroud will be hoping to add to his six Premier League goals against Swansea’s backline. The Frenchman, who also signed a new contract along with Coquelin and the aforementioned Koscielny, has two league goals against the Swans – the last of which came during a comfortable 3-0 away victory in October 2015.
Possible XI: Cech; Gabriel, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal; Xhaka, Ramsey; Ox, Alexis, Iwobi; Giroud.
Swansea have had a forgettable season to say the least by their standards and despite the quality within their ranks, are one of the favourites to be relegated come May.
Having prevailed with an unlikely 2-1 win over Crystal Palace in their last league fixture, they’ll be eager to secure only their third home victory of the season against an Arsenal side that has proven unpredictable on the best of days this season already.
Leroy Fer is joint top goalscorer for Swansea this term, which says all you need to know about their lack of a clinical edge in-front of goal. The 27-year-old central midfielder has been one of few shining lights for Swansea this season, with the same to be said about Gylfi Sigurdsson. Five goals and six assists for the creative midfielder, with an impressive 38 chances created to boot, they’ll be integral to Swansea’s chances of a positive result on Saturday lunchtime.
Fernando Llorente has been linked with a possible January switch to Chelsea and the Spanish forward is useful when played to his strengths, as shown by the six league goals he has netted this season. He’ll be an aerial threat and will definitely look to bully Arsenal’s backline, especially if the team doesn’t start well as a collective unit – something that has been evident in recent weeks.
Possible XI (4-3-3): Fabianski; Taylor, Mawson, Fernandez, Rangel; Cork, Ki, Fer; Routledge, Sigurdsson; Llorente.