Preview by Numbers: Swansea City v. Arsenal

Liberty Stadium, Swansea
Saturday, March 16
11:00 a.m. EDT, 15:00 GMT
  • Match Officials
    • Referee: Jonathan Moss
    • Assistants: Darren England and Harry Lennard
    • 4th Official: Dean Whitestone
  • Reverse Fixture: Arsenal 0 - 2 Swansea
  • This Match, Last Year: Swansea 3 - 2 Arsenal
  • All-Time in All Competitions: 7 Arsenal wins, 5 Swansea wins, 2 draws
  • Arsenal's League Form: W-D-W-W-W-L
  • Swansea's League Form: D-L-W-L-W-L
  • Weather: Cloudy, 4 C / 40 F
This is the universe, by the way...
10 MATCHES THAT WILL DECIDE THE FATE OF THE UNIVERSE! The Arsenal Universe, at least. Maybe the whole universe, I don't know.

The mission is clear. 10 matches remain and Arsenal Football Club are five points back of fourth place. There are 30 points left on the table for the taking. Swansea away, Reading home, West Brom away, Norwich home, Everton home, Fulham away, United home, QPR away, Wigan home, Newcastle away. Arsenal have to overcome the Evil Rich Russian's West London side and/or their bitterest rivals from up the road. Who else to do the job than this loveable ragtag bunch of misfits!?

Really, this plot leads itself perfectly to the classic sports movie. Can this team that hasn't really convinced anybody all year turn it around when it really matters?

Let's find out...

Your Heroes

Out: Wilshere (ankle, but not that ankle), Sagna (knee), Podolski (ankle)

Starring Sir Ian McKellen as
Arsene Wenger.
Like any film, there are obstacles for our heroes to overcome, and right now, it's the absence of Jack Wilshere. Wilshere's the engine that drives the midfield, so of course, in the Hollywood movie that is this season, he finds himself out of the lineup at a critical juncture, forcing everyone else to rally.

With Lukas Podolski still out with his ankle knock, Santi Cazorla will retain his place on the left wing, meaning it's likely Tomas Rosicky who will continue in Jack's place in front of Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey, as he did in Germany on Wednesday night.

As for the back line, Thomas Vermaelen was dropped for the test in Munich and Arsenal's back four (plus Lukasz Fabianski, of all people) responded by becoming the first team to keep a clean sheet against Bayern Munich all season. I think Kieran Gibbs retains his place at left back, Carl Jenkinson will retain his place at right back with Bacary Sagna still out, and the Koscielny-Mertesacker partnership has to continue based on recent evidence.

As for which Pole starts in goal, well, the fact that that's even a question is mind boggling, so I can't expect to wrap my head around an answer.

The Antagonists

Out: Agustien (thigh), Flores (ankle), Taylor (ankle)
Doubts: Moore (calf), Britton (hip)

Is the other guy Michu?
Well, let's be honest, the biggest villain on the other side of the pitch is Michu, who has three goals in three games against Arsenal this year. Arsenal have struggled to maintain Danny Graham in the past, but he was sold to Sunderland in the transfer window.

Swansea will be sweating over the fitness of Luke Moore, who left last week's loss to West Brom just after the hour mark with a calf injury. He returned to training this week but still faces a fitness test. Leon Britton missed last week's trip to the Hawthorns with a hip injury and is also a doubt.

Kemy Agustien is on the way back from a thigh injury but he will still be far too short for this match. Chico (and the man) Flores is out with ruptured ankle ligaments, and Neil Taylor, a long term absentee with an ankle injury, is expected to make a return for the Swans next month.

Recent Plot Arcs

Swansea won the Capital One Cup, this year, which, according
to, is "awarded annually to each of the
best men's and women's Division I college athletics programs
in the [United States]." Congratulations?
Well, Arsenal's story has been wild, as you no doubt know. Every time it looks like they've turned a corner, they got shot right back down, whether it be by Blackburn Rovers or Tottenham Hotspur. As it stands now, they had ten days to recover from losing the derby, then put in a brilliant performance while coming up just short against Bayern. You have to think that's some kind of momentum, and with another long break coming up after this match, it's imperative to get another three points under their belt now. It's not always easy to win after playing in Europe in midweek, but Arsenal have a record of four wins, three draws, and no losses in such weekend matches this season.

As for Swansea, they come in having won the first piece of silverware of the season (done by becoming the first team in the cup to finally beat Bradford City this season,) but their league form is a bit rocky. They have not won consecutive league matches since beating West Brom and Arsenal months ago. In fact, they have won just four of 14 matches since that day at the Emirates, beating the likes of Fulham, Stoke, QPR, and Newcastle. Those wins over West Brom and Arsenal in late November and early December also mark the Swans' only victories against teams ahead of them in the table (Swansea are currently ninth.) However, in the league, only Norwich and Everton have won at the Liberty Stadium this season (Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool all settled for draws.)


Wilshere's facial expression, after scoring the FA Cup winner,
seems more like "I just ate too much sour candy!"
Okay, Arsenal and Swansea have played each other a million times already this season, and by a million, I mean three. Both sides have won one with the other ending in a draw.

Swansea won the first meeting at the Emirates in December 2-0, with Michu scoring twice very late in the match. When the sides met in the FA Cup a month later, it was again Michu drawing first blood, just seconds after his introduction as a substitute. Lukas Podolski and Kieran Gibbs scored two minutes apart to give Arsenal a 2-1 lead in the 83rd, but Danny Graham equalized in the 87th to force a replay at the Emirates. Arsenal went on to win that replay 1-0, thanks to Jack Wilshere's 86th minute goal. So, seven goals between these two sides in three meetings this season; six of them were scored in the 81st minute or later.

Arsenal lost this match last year, 3-2. Arsenal scored early, but Swansea equalized just after the quarter-hour mark after a controversial penalty. Nathan Dyer put Swansea ahead in the 57th minute, but Theo Walcott equalized for Arsenal in the 69th. The celebration was short-lived, however, as Danny Graham put Swansea on top for good just a minute later.

Another Villain, Maybe

The referee is West Yorkshire-based Jonathan Moss. Arsenal have only seen Moss twice in his short Select Group career (this is Moss's first full season working in the top flight, at age 42.) Last season, Moss was in the middle of Arsenal's 2-1 win at Aston Villa and earlier this year, he worked Arsenal's 1-0 win at Wigan Athletic. Two road wins for Arsenal, both of which included an Arsenal goal from the penalty spot.

Swansea have had Moss twice this season and failed to win on both occasions: they lost 2-0 at Stoke in September and drew 0-0 with Liverpool in November.

Moss showed 11 red cards in 32 games last season, but has only shown one, to Steven Pienaar of Everton, in 24 games this year.


Arsenal also need some help, in the form of Chelsea and Spurs dropping points over the next two months. The other nine matches in the fixture list this weekend are:
  • Saturday (early): Everton v. Manchester City; Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Saturday: Aston Villa v. Queens Park Rangers; Villa Park, Birmingham
  • Saturday: Southampton v. Liverpool; St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
  • Saturday: Stoke City v. West Bromwich Albion; Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent
  • Saturday (late): Manchester United v. Reading; Old Trafford, Manchester
  • Sunday (early): Sunderland v. Norwich City; Stadium of Light, Sunderland
  • Sunday: Tottenham Hotspur v. Fulham; White Hart Lane, London
  • Sunday (late): Chelsea v. West Ham United; Stamford Bridge, London
  • Sunday (late): Wigan Athletic v. Newcastle United; DW Stadium, Wigan