Swans have Seagulls in their sights

Posted by Max Hicks

Four down, four to go. The Swans are halfway through their hectic January schedule, but Michael Laudrup has already started bringing in reinforcements. New signing Roland Lamah won't be eligible to face Arsenal in Wednesday's FA Cup third round replay, however, which means it'll be business as usual for Swansea.

Arsenal will be without Tomas Rosicky, Mikel Arteta and Laurent Koscielny for a variety of different reasons, which could present Swansea with all the chance they need to progress further in the competition.

It is now no secret that Arsenal haven't found Swansea very easy to play against since the Swans reached the Premier League. The Gunners best moments came in the first run of this fixture, last week's 2-2 draw, but that was down to an almost catastrophic defensive meltdown from Swansea for a period of the second half.

Arsenal shouldn't expect the same this time; it is rare, these days especially, to see such defensive slapstick from Swansea. Ash Williams and Chico Flores have become arguably the Premier League's best central defence partnership in recent weeks; Ben Davies has become Neil Taylor Mk II while Dwight Tiendalli has become a legitimate rotation option for the ever dependable Angel Rangel. It is a tough foursome to break down, and even backup goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel has more or less matched Michel Vorm's high level of performance.

In the first run, Arsenal's first problem, at least for 80 minutes or so, was a lack of finishing -- a curse which not coincidentally seems to have affected one or two other big clubs when facing the Swans' improved defence. The Gunners' next problem was holding onto the lead -- after Kieran Gibbs had volleyed Arsenal ahead, it was surprisingly easy for Swansea to step on the gas and get an equalizer.

At the time I had wondered why the Swans had been so content to sit back and defend when there were apparently goals to be had. It will be interesting to see if Laudrup allows his Swans a little more attacking license this time. Parking the bus is an option, as the Swans did against Chelsea and Everton, but whereas a point after 90 minutes might be a decent result in the league, extra time won't be appreciated given the Swans' January schedule. I expect the side to be a little braver in probing for attacking chances, especially with Arsenal still sore from a frustrating 10-man runaround against Manchester City on Sunday.

Arsenal are once again vulnerable heading into a game versus the Swans. The Gunners will have to cope without a few key absentees, and will have had a day's less rest than Swansea. Morale might not be great after the exhausting defeat on Sunday, and the expectation will all be on the London club. Plus, there's that nagging eight year dry run hanging like a lead weight over the Emirates. The Swans meanwhile will be just looking to get whatever they can; they'll know victory is a possibility, after having beaten Arsenal before, and so far anything seems possible on Laudrup's watch. If the Swans do prevail, they'll get Brighton in the next round, and a chance to catch up with former Swans Stephen Dobbie and Andrea Orlandi.

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