At the halfway point of the season, Arsenal are in their usual position of battling for the Champions League places, while Swansea are at the opposite end of the table (as usual) in a relegation dogfight. But in the recent history of this fixture, these facts mean absolutely nothing on the day, and the Swans have an amazing record of confounding the odds against the Gunners.
This is how the Official Swansea City website previews today’s game…..
SWANS v ARSENAL: The big talking points…. as Clement gets set for Liberty debut
Swansea City look to build on their rousing victory at Crystal Palace when they take on Arsenal in Paul Clement’s first home game as head coach this weekend. Clement’s reign began with a fairly low-key FA Cup exit at Hull City last Saturday, but the stakes are high as the Swans return to Premier League action against the Gunners.
Here we look at the main talking points heading into the game.
A new era at the Liberty
New Swans boss Clement ended up in the dugout during that morale-boosting triumph at Crystal Palace last week, and he was in full control for the first time for the cup defeat at Hull. But the visit of Arsenal is the first Premier League game of the Clement era, and the new man is relishing the prospect. He says it is an “honour” to do battle with Arsene Wenger – but stresses that his priority is to produce a Swans team playing “winning football”.
Doing that this weekend would be a fantastic way for the new regime to start.
More of the same, please
There are 10 teams in the Premier League who have been in the division alongside the Swans throughout their five-and-a-half seasons at this level. Of those 10, there is only one side – West Brom – who the Swans have had more joy against than they have had when facing Arsenal. In all they have banked 19 points from 11 meetings with the Baggies, and 16 from 11 against Wenger’s North London heavyweights. That is more points than the Swans have won against the likes of Sunderland (15) and Stoke (12). There have been five Premier League wins against Arsenal, the most recent of which came at the Emirates last March. Now to try to make it six.
Mustafi’s Midas touch
If, as seems highly likely, Shkodran Mustafi plays for Arsenal this weekend, Clement’s Swans must do something no other team has managed. Namely, beat a Gunners side which features the German international centre-back.
Eyebrows were raised by some when Wenger paid a reported £35 million to sign former Everton youngster Mustafi from Valencia last August. But given that Mustafi has not lost in 18 Arsenal appearances – there have been 12 wins and six draws – the feeling now is that he is key to their chances of success this season. Arsenal’s three league defeats in 2016-17 have all come when Mustafi has been missing. Sadly for the Swans, perhaps, the World Cup winner has recently returned to action following a hamstring injury.
The Swans looked to be getting their house in order when, having been without a Liberty victory all season, they chalked up back-to-back home wins against Crystal Palace and Sunderland. However, two major setbacks followed after Christmas as West Ham and Bournemouth both won comfortably in SA1. The Swans made amends to some extent by banking only a second away win in the league this season at Selhurst Park last time out in the top flight. But home form will be key to their survival chances, and performance levels must rise this weekend after those two festive disappointments.
A new signing – but no debut yet
The Swans kicked off their January transfer business by signing PSV Eindhoven winger Luciano Narsingh this week. Narsingh would have been eligible to play, but a slight calf injury picked up in his last few days at PSV means he will not be involved against Arsenal. Narsingh, a 19-cap Dutch international, has been a regular for PSV this season, but has not played for a month because of Holland’s winter break.
Can Clement change the record?
The Swans’ new boss has stressed the need for his new club to make themselves harder to beat. Clement is adamant that given time on the training ground, he will make the Swans a tougher proposition for opposing sides. But how quickly can he make a difference? Certainly, the Swans need something to change fast. After all, they have conceded more goals at home in the Premier League (23) than any other team so far this season, while Arsenal have scored more on their travels (23) than anyone in the top flight. Hence the Swans need Clement to work a bit of magic.
So, considering their place in the Premier League table, Swansea have quite a few positive thoughts going in to today’s game, but surely Arsenal have far too much quality to be swayed by by a previous bad record against the Welshmen. The only thing that worries me is that we say this every year!