Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Red Star Belgrade, Europa League Group Matchday 4

Emirates Stadium, London
Thursday, November 2
4:05 p.m. EDT, 20:05 GMT
  • Match Officials from Italy
    • Referee: Luca Banti
    • Assistants: Lorenzo Manganelli and Fabiano Preti
    • 4th Official: Andrea Crispo
    • Additional Assistants: Paolo Valeri and Daniele Doveri
  • Reverse Fixture: Red Star Belgrade 0 - 1 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 1 Arsenal win, 1 Red Star Belgrade win, 1 draw
  • Arsenal's Overall Form: W-L-W-W-W-W
  • Red Star Belgrade's Overall Form: W-W-L-W-W-W
I don't have much to say here. Arsenal are through to the Round of 32 with a victory here on matchday four, with a possible two games to spare. Plus, they have a 100% record at home this season to maintain. Might as well get on with the job.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Kolašinac (hip,) Ospina (groin,) Welbeck (groin,) Mustafi (hamstring,) Chambers (match fitness,) Cazorla (Achilles)

There are doubts over Sead Kolašinac, who injured his hip against Swansea at the weekend; he'll be tested before Sunday's trip to Manchester City and is expected to be rested here.

There are no returns on the cards for any of Arsenal's injured players, including David Ospina, who was expected back from his groin problem. We won't see Danny Welbeck and Shkodran Mustafi until after the upcoming international break. Calum Chambers is, however, back in full training.

As has been the case with the previous Europa League matches, and with this one coming at home, you should expect to see a lot of rotation in the XI. On the other hand, without Ospina available, Petr Čech started in Belgrade on matchday three and might be required here to give Arsenal the best shot at qualification with games to spare. You can start Matt Macey all you want in dead rubber.

Predicted XI: Čech, Debuchy, Holding, Elneny, Nelson, Maitland-Niles, Coquelin, Willock, Wilshere, Walcott, Giroud.

Red Star Belgrade Squad News

Out: Jovicić, Cavalcante
Suspended: Rodić (one match, two yellows)

Milan Rodić will serve a one-match ban after he was sent off against Arsenal on matchday three. My sources suggest that Ricardo Cavalcante and Branko Jovicić are both out injured for the Serbian side, but those sources were wrong the last time, so unless I go ahead and learn Serbian to find more accurate team news, your guess is as good as mine.

Predicted XI: Borjan, Stojković, Savić, Le Tallec, Gobeljić, Srnić, Kanga, Donald (ić?), Krstičić, Radonjić, Boakye.

Current Form

Arsenal have lost once in their last 12 matches, across all competitions, since losing 4-0 at Liverpool on August 27. Their only blips have been the 0-0 draw at Chelsea, the 2-1 loss at Watford, and I guess you could add needing extra time to beat Norwich in the League Cup. Arsenal have won eight of their last nine and have won four straight for the second time this season.

They have won all of their home games; you'd have to go back to their 2-2 draw with Manchester City on April 2 for the last time they dropped points at home. The last team to win at the Emirates was Bayern Munich, on March 7, by a red-card aided 5-1 scoreline.

Red Star Belgrade have won five of their last six themselves, though that loss came against Arsenal in the reverse fixture. Their last league setback was on October 1 against Napredak Kruševac. Red Star are four points clear at the top of the Serbian table, ahead of their Belgrade rival Partizan.

Match Facts

Not much to say here that wasn't said in the last preview. Arsenal won the reverse fixture on matchday 3, 1-0 in Belgrade, when Olivier Giroud scored an audacious bicycle kick in the 85th minute. It was Arsenal's first win in three tries against Red Star Belgrade, having lost 1-0 in Belgrade and drawn 1-1 at Highbury in the 1978/79 UEFA Cup.

Arsenal's only other matches against Serbian competition came in the 2010 Champions League group stage, when they beat Partizan twice by 3-1 scorelines. Red Star Belgrade have six wins, six losses, and five draws all-time against English sides. They have only won once in seven tries on English soil. That was in Liverpool in 1973, 2-1, in the second round of the European Cup, to win the tie 4-2 on aggregate. They went on to lose to Atlético Madrid in the next round, who themselves lost the final to Bayern Munich.

The Referee

The match officials are from Italy; the referee is Luca Banti. As has been the case in other Europa League matches, Arsenal have never seen this referee before, since Arsenal have not played at this level in Europe in almost two decades.

Banti has worked two previous Belgrade matches. In the 2013 second qualifying round of the Europa League, Banti worked a 2-0 Red Star win, in Belgrade, over Icelandic side Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja. Okay, some of those aren't even letters. They went on to lose to Ukrainian side Chornomorets Odesa in the next round.

Last year, Banti took charge of a Champions League qualifying match between Red Star and Ludogorets, which the Bulgarian side won 4-2 in Serbia. Of course, you likely know how that tie ended, since Ludogorets were in Arsenal's group.

John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and is finishing this preview at the eleventh hour. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to tell him that you know it was really the tenth hour and he is just exaggerating slightly.

Preview by Numbers: Arsenal v. Swansea City

Emirates Stadium, London
Saturday, October 28
10:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 BST
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Lee Mason
    • Assistants: Harry Lennard and Derek Eaton
    • 4th Official: Lee Probert
  • This Match, Last Year: Arsenal 3 - 2 Swansea
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 12 Arsenal wins, 8 Swansea wins, 3 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-W-L-W
  • Swansea's League Form: L-D-L-L-W-L
For the first time in my six years of writing for this website, I missed two consecutive match previews, so I will start off by offering my apologies. On the other hand, I got married over the weekend, so I think the excuse is pretty legit. Also, Arsenal won both of those matches, so how much can you really complain? Arsenal are 3-0 in games where I have failed to write a match preview since I started here in February of 2011, so maybe every loss has been my fault?

Fingers crossed that the match at Watford was a blip instead of a derailment. Arsenal have responded well by winning in Belgrade and at Everton, then coming from behind with their reserves to beat Norwich in extra time of the League Cup. Since the 4-0 loss at Anfield, Arsenal have won nine, lost once, and drawn at Chelsea. Not too shabby for a club in crisis.

It's a big week for Arsenal as we steamroll towards the November international break: the Gunners have Swansea and Red Star Belgrade at home before a trip to Manchester City next weekend. City have yet to lose this season and Arsenal are nine points back of the top spot in the league. Winning the title is likely a pipe dream, but Arsenal are only four points out of second, so reclaiming a top four finish is completely doable.

But to do that, you have to win the games you are supposed to win and you absolutely must win your home games, so nothing less than three points on Saturday against the Swans would be acceptable.

Arsenal Squad News

Out: Ospina (groin,) Welbeck (groin,) Mustafi (hamstring,) Cazorla (Achilles? Is that what it is? I keep forgetting)
Doubts: Chambers (match fitness)

Arsenal have no fresh injury concerns heading into this weekend's match and Arsène Wenger will be tempted to start the same XI that swashbuckled their way to a win at Goodison Park.

My absence in writing these previews meant that I had failed to realize that David Ospina was hurt until Matt Macey started against Norwich on Tuesday. The Colombian, who has a groin problem, is out for tomorrow but could start against Red Star Belgrade this coming Thursday.

Calum Chambers (thigh) is back in full training, but Arsenal are still without Danny Welbeck, Shkodran Mustafi, and, of course, Santi Cazorla.

Predicted XI: Čech, Koscielny, Mertesacker, Monreal, Bellerín, Kolašinac, Xhaka, Ramsey, Özil, Alexis, Lacazette.

Swansea Squad News

Out: Olsson (hamstring,) Bartley (knee,) Sanches (thigh,) Bony (hamstring)

Martin Olsson picked up a hamstring injury in Swansea's League Cup loss to Manchester United on Tuesday. He joins a list of injured players that also includes former Arsenal defender Kyle Bartley. As a result, Àngel Rangel will come in at right back, pushing Kyle Naughton to the left.

Arsenal will avoid facing Renato Sanches, the Portuguese Wunderkind who is on loan from Bayern Munich and is out with a thigh injury, as well as Wilfried Bony, who transferred back to his former club this summer, and is out with a hamstring problem.

Arsenal will not, however, avoid facing their former goalkeeper in Łukasz Fabiański. So, you know, do what you will with that.

Predicted XI: Fabiański, Rangel, Fernández, Mawson, Naughton, Britton, Carroll, Fer, Narsingh, Abraham, Ayew.

Current Form

As mentioned at the top, Arsenal have nine wins from their last 11 fixtures, though that includes the League Cup win over Norwich City, which was 1-1 after regulation. So, if you want to get super technical, it's eight wins, two draws, and the one loss at Watford. But, really, nine wins sounds better, doesn't it? And they did win the game in question, so I'll allow it if you will.

As for Swansea, they were knocked out of the League Cup by Manchester United this week and currently sit 15th in the table, with eight points. They are out of the relegation zone on goal difference alone; their -4 is best among the four clubs sitting on eight points. It is worth noting, however, that the Swans have picked up two good road draws at Southampton and Tottenham, though maybe picking up points at Wembley isn't something worth writing home about? They also picked up a win at Crystal Palace, meaning five of their eight points have come on their travels, and that their road record is better than their record at the Liberty Stadium. Across all competitions, they have lost four of their last five since beating Reading in the League Cup's third round.

Match Facts

Swansea have often been a bogey team for Arsenal; however, the Gunners took all six points from the Swans last season.

Arsenal made it difficult at the Emirates last year, however. Theo Walcott put Arsenal up 2-0 with a brace within 33 minutes, but Gylfi Sigurðsson pulled one back for the visitors on 38 minutes. Mesut Özil made it 3-1, but Borja Baston pulled another back on 66 minutes and Granit Xhaka was sent off four minutes later. Arsenal were forced to defend their one-goal lead with 10 men for 20 minutes, but held strong and came away with the 3-2 victory.

Prior to that match, Arsenal had not won a league fixture against Swansea at the Emirates since Andrei Arshavin's fluke goal gave the Gunners a 1-0 win on September 10, 2011. They did win an FA Cup replay at home against the Swans in January of 2013, also 1-0, thanks to a late Jack Wilshere goal.

Things were much easier at the Liberty Stadium in January. Olivier Giroud gave Arsenal a 1-0 halftime lead, but the Gunners added three more in the second half, through two own goals and an Alexis Sánchez tally, to come out of Wales with a 4-0 victory.

The Referee

The referee is Lancashire-based Lee Mason. Arsenal have yet to see Mason this season, but Swansea have had him once, for their 2-1 home loss to Watford. Huh, losing 2-1 to Watford, what a novel concept.

Last year, Arsenal saw Mason only once, for their 3-1 home win over Stoke City in December. Swansea also had him only once last season; oddly, it was also a loss to Watford. I'm sensing a theme here.

Swansea have not won with Mason since November 28, 2012 and are winless in their last eight with him in the middle. Arsenal have not lost with Mason since April 18, 2010 and are unbeaten in 17 with him. Plenty of draws in both lists, however, though Arsenal have only lost twice in 24 matches with Mason in the middle, and Swansea have only won four out of 20.

Around the League
  • Saturday (early): Manchester United v. Tottenham Hotspur; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Saturday: Crystal Palace v. West Ham United; Selhurst Park, London
  • Saturday: Liverpool v. Huddersfield Town; Anfield, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Watford v. Stoke City; Vicarage Road, Watford
  • Saturday: West Bromwich Albion v. Manchester City; The Hawthorns, West Bromwich
  • Saturday (late): Bournemouth v. Chelsea; Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth
  • Sunday (early): Brighton & Hove Albion v. Southampton; The American Express Community Stadium, Falmer
  • Sunday (late): Leicester City v. Everton; King Power Stadium, Leicester
  • Monday (night): Burnley v. Newcastle United; Turf Moor, Burnley
John Painting is a contributing writer to the Modern Gooner and a fictional mad scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @zorrocat to foil his fiendish plot for world domination.