Arsenal have a good platform to take three points at Swansea

Posted by Andrew Mangan

After a midweek outing that saw Arsene Wenger shuffle his pack considerably, Arsenal will be better balanced and more cohesive when they face Swansea.

The players that were rested in midweek, the likes of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud, will provide the attacking threat that the front line in the Capital One Cup failed to do.

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It's not a criticism of Ryo Miyaichi, Serge Gnabry and Nicklas Bendtner, but they're as unfamiliar a trio as the Arsenal manager could have put together, and when some of the supporting cast were as raw as Thomas Eisfeld and Isaac Hayden, it's obvious that Arsenal's progression was based on the defensive platform provided by the more experienced players.

Since the lowest point of last season, the cup exits to Bradford and Blackburn, it's been interesting to see how the team's focus has been changed. The defensive responsibilities are no longer shirked, and if they are, they're not tolerated. Witness Per Mertesacker's commanding performances, both in terms of what he does on the ball and what he expects from those around him.

Seeing him and Bacary Sagna in heated discussion, as we did in a recent fixture, might be an unedifying sight to some, but that kind of communication is vital. Simple things are sorted out as they happen. Mertesacker pulling down Yaya Sanogo's arm in a wall, for example. It seems obvious, but many will remember Cesc Fabregas conceding a penalty in a North London derby for the very same thing.

However, if last season's results were fought for tooth and nail, this campaign has seen an increased fluency in Arsenal's attacking play. Of course, some of that is because there isn't the same pressure right now. They're not neck and neck in a race for the top four with their oldest rival, with no room for mistakes, but the defensive platform also allows them to attack with greater verve.

The midfielders know they have a job to do when they don't have the ball, but they can afford to take a few risks higher up the pitch because they know what sits behind them is a cohesive, well-drilled defensive unit. The centre-half partnership between Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny is highly effective, as the contrasting styles complement each other very well, while in Sagna and Kieran Gibbs they have the two most solid full-backs in the Premier League right now.

This means that when a midfielder like Ramsey adds goals to his already thriving all-around game, it makes such a big difference. The Welshman has made more tackles than any other player in the Premier League, and with seven goals in all competitions so far, it's little wonder he's the man of the moment.

It's also interesting to note that with the return of Mikel Arteta, Wenger now has two very different options when it comes to the holding midfielder role. The Spaniard, like Ramsey, is a good tackler and is calm, collected and cool in possession, distributing the ball short and long to good effect.

The other option, Mathieu Flamini, is more combative. A relentless charger, he seeks to break up play in a more physical manner while barking orders at all those around him. Whoever plays will probably depend on the opposition, but there's also no reason why both can't start, and it wouldn't be a surprise to them against Swansea on Saturday.

It would mean pushing Ramsey or Wilshere farther forward, but away from home Arsenal tend to pack the midfield, and they can do that without dampening the effectiveness of either player. Against a team that likes to play possession football, the Gunners' defensive mettle will be tested more considerably than it was against Stoke las t weekend.

If Arsenal stand firm, they've got enough to hurt the Swans at the other end of the pitch, and in their current form they'll certainly be disappointed not to take three points.


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