Thoughts On City, Swansea, and Chelsea Games

We are heading out on a 10 day vacation starting tomorrow. This was scheduled months ago before the fixtures were announced as my wife has to pick her annual leave days before the year starts. Can’t say I’m happy about missing the big games but we wanted to give the busy holiday period a miss so these days work the best.

I don’t think I will get a chance to watch the games before we return so there won’t be any articles till the day before the West Ham game.

In this post I want to quickly capture some thoughts for the upcoming games. City at home and Chelsea away are going to be genuinely tough fixtures. In relative terms, they certainly can’t be classified as “eminently winnable”, something we did for the last four fixtures. Curiously enough, the Gunners did win both these games last season. There was the goal-fest at the Bridge and an Arteta belter at the Emirates. Are we likely to see a repeat? Let’s talk about it game by game, but before that a couple of observations about Arsenal’s season in general.

An article of mine will appear on the Betting Expert Blog later this week. In that I look at some numbers pertaining to Arsenal’s season. Here is one example – Did you realize the Gunners have scored 57.5 percent of their goals in 20 percent of their games. Big scores against Reading, Newcastle, Tottenham, and Southampton have contributed 23 goals to the Arsenal tally. That means they’ve only scored 42.5 percent of their goals in the remaining 80 percent of their games. 17 goals in 16 games makes it barely over 1 goal per game.

Secondly, in the five games that Arsenal have played against teams currently above them in the League, their record is P5W1D2L2F9A8. More than half the 9 goals in the ‘For’ column came from the Tottenham win. No side kept a clean sheet in those five games.

City @ home

Wenger and Mancini seem to have certain commonalities in the way they want their teams to play. This has meant that the games between their sides, in recent years, have been intense midfield battles. All three fixtures ended in a 1-0 score last year with City winning two. This year the first game was tied 1-1 with both goals coming from set-pieces. In 2010-11 it was a 0-0 at the Emirates and a 0-3 win for the Gunners in Manchester on the back of an early sending off.

I will be very surprised if this game has many goals. City will have a threat on counter-attacks and that could be worrisome for Arsenal if they try to press high up the pitch. Will be interesting to see if Wenger picks Mertesacker in the starting line-up and if he pushes his team up the pitch.

Given the attacking talent that Mancini has at his disposal, sitting deep will not be a clever approach but Arsenal did have a relative comfortable time in the first half at the Etihad stadium.

City’s record in the games against the top six sides is not special. They’ve P5W1D3L1F6A6. Also, four of these five games were at their home. This season they’ve not been as strong a side as they were last year.

Mancini’s side have won 5 of their 10 away games but have lost only 1. They’ve only conceded 10 goals in 10 away games and have conceded 1 or less in 17 of their 21 League games. The Gunners have won 5 of their 9 home games and lost 2. Arsenal have let in 1.44 goals per game at home this season, which puts them way back in 15th position as far as the ‘defending at home’ stakes are concerned.

This one looks like a draw to me but it could boil down to that one decisive moment that seals the three points. In such cases, attributes like ‘sharpness’, ‘handbrake’, ‘confidence’, ‘spirit’, etc. play a vital role.

Swansea @ home

The Swans have been a pleasant surprise this season. Regular readers know how much I admire Michael Laudrup and it’s good to see him do well. Hopefully, he’ll have a long and enjoyable time in England.

I’m not sure what I want from this game. A win has it’s obvious advantages from progression to the next round to a confidence boost before the Chelsea game. The result of this game will also be very important if City take all three points from their visit. Arsenal haven’t found consistency or momentum this season so every win is likely to help.

But I’m not convinced the Gunners are going to go all the way in the FA Cup. So there’s a thought at the back of the mind that an early exit will help them in the other competitions, primarily the League. The fight for fourth is going to be harder than ever and distractions will not help.

All things considered, it seems another defeat to Swansea at home will cause more problems than it will have benefits. Hopefully, Wenger and his men will have the right answers this time around. Laudrup’s team don’t concede many goals and have shown a tendency to capitalize on the opponent’s errors, particularly late in the game. Arsenal will need early impetus to get through.

Will Wenger rotate his starting eleven for this game as it’s sandwiched between two big League games?

Chelsea @ Stamford Bridge

Rafa Benitez has overseen a mixed run of form after taking over the Chelsea hot seat. Big wins and disappointing defeats have never been far away from each other. How will they fare in this game?

The Blues don’t have to contend with an FA Cup replay but they have a Premier League game against Southampton at about the same time Arsenal face Swansea. So from a physical point of view they should not have an advantage.

Dembe Ba could be the key player in that game. He isn’t a great all-round striker but he is an exceptionally efficient goalscorer who can convert half-chances. Benitez likes to build a team from the defence first and Chelsea could rely on fast breaks in this game. While Wenger’s home record against Rafa, when the Spaniard was at Liverpool, is pretty good, the current side could struggle if Chelsea get their act together. In fairness, there are big ifs involved in this game for both sides and Arsenal could also win it.

Chelsea have a decent record against the top six teams winning three of their five games. Oddly enough, they’ve lost at home to United and drawn at home to City while winning away to Arsenal, Spurs, and Everton.

Arsenal have the best away defence in the League conceding just 0.82 goals per game thus far. They’ll give themselves a good chance if they keep things tight at the back.

Generally speaking

I don’t see any point in discussing the starting elevens for these games right now. Injuries and form will dictate the choices. Hopefully, Wenger will be able to rotate some of his players. It’ll be interesting to see if Rosicky and Diaby can come into the side and make an impact.

If I get the chance, I’ll post some observations and links to the aforementioned article on Twitter/Facebook. Hope everyone watching the games has a great time.



18 Responses to Thoughts On City, Swansea, and Chelsea Games

  1. Dianjuh says:

    Hey Desi,

    I would like to say for a manager who ‘badly’ wants to see us do well like Wenger claims then we are doing pretty slow in the transfer market! I mean we have some season defining games and we want to face those games with the same struggling imbalanced squad? For who for what? Get the right player at the right price? Am sure all fans know Wenger always knows who he wants to buy, the problem with him is that he wants to buy at a slightly lower price, this ends up prolonging if not killing the chances to succeed. Am starting to really see it not working out for us. If we sign at the end of January, finishing on a high (whether a trophy or top 4) will not be in our hands rather it will depend on others slipping along the way. Then again who said we are signing anyone? This is still Wenger we are talking about!!!. Tottenham once slipped and let us finish above them, Lightining dont strike the same place twice!!!

    Think for a second….

    Come May, we finish mid table, no champions league, no trophy no new signings..same old Wenger, same old formation, same old sloppy defense, toothless attack, being kicked out of all cups, selling our best players year in and out, losing to Manchester home and away year in and out,….

    I need to stop before I get sick….

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      I am not one that has a go at fellow responders, as we are all entitled to our own point of view, even if it is borne out of frustration at events beyond our control. However, I do doubt that you have any experience of managing a football club, let alone know what it takes to get a player to sign a player.
      For a start, the Walcott issue. Have you considered for one minute how that has affected other deals? It has probably wiped off £10m of the transfer budget. You know, the bit that includes the wages as well as the initial fee? Not to mention that prospective signings will view it in regards to whether Arsenal can retain their better players, but also how well paid they are, even if media quotes might not be an exact representation of the facts.
      Then you come to individual deals. ZAHA for example? Even Man U have not tied that one down for all that they can offer. Why not? Because the selling club want the most they can get, and the media suggests that the figure they want is £20m, Man U are quoted as offering £12m. Perhaps if AW went straight in there with a £20m offer he might be successful … but at a cost of no more signings this January? Much as I admire Zaha, I think our priorities lie elsewhere since the Walcott deal, but that(quoted) £26m would have gone some way towards a deal, and still a bit left over.
      I have written before about any M’vila signing being difficult because, again Rennes want as much as they can get. They ‘leak’ stories that ‘Arsenal have been offered a cut-price £7/8m deal’, but by announcing it they alert other clubs, in the hope of an auction to push the price up. It may still happen if the player does not want to go to just ‘any’ club, but that is how complicated it can be?
      Another player you may think AW has been slow to bring in is David Villa?
      I think there has been a portrayal in the media that Arsenal have a ‘good’ relationship with Barcelona because of previous sales. Far from it. The constant agitation allowed by their players to unsettle Cesc Fabregas was a major irritant. The purchase of Alex Song appears more like a signing to weaken Arsenal, rather than a particular need in the Barca squad?
      So despite pleas to be allowed to leave and join Arsenal, as reportedly made by David Villa, Barcelona do an about turn. Having originally offered the player to the market for £16m, and allowing approaches to be made, the president has now come out and said they will not sell to a ‘rival’??
      Yet this still is made out to be the fault of Arsene Wenger?
      I believe the reason why this deal will be drawn out is because they want to continue to drag their feet over money owed to Arsenal regards the sales of Fabregas and Song. They do not want this deal to clear the decks by using their debt as part-payment?
      So for you to imply that AW does not want to do the best for the club is insulting at the very least. He will bring in players if they are ‘truly’ available. Don’t get caught up in this media game where the negative picture is invariably played.

      • Dhruv says:

        Just give that son of a gun Walcott a deadline or let him bugger off. Neither Walcott or Wenger should hold the club for ransom.

        And my friend you dont have to make Arsenal football club sound like a meek victim always, the ground work should have done earlier and we should have bought players by now.

        Wenger has the same freaking problem every season when it is time to buy a player. A few names are thrown up in the air and at the end of the window we will end up with the same set of crocks like Diaby.

      • Dianjuh says:

        I agree with you on most points, but are you sincerely saying I need to be a bus driver and not a passenger to tell something is wrong with the driving?

        We consistently sell our best players with a lot of ease (RVP/song/flamini/hleb/adebayor/toure etc) just to name a few. But we always seem to take forever when it comes to bringing quality in. I will pick up just one example to sum up what am trying to say…

        2009/2010 season – we had a team tearing defenses to shreds and we looked destined to challenge for the title. Well, up until Mr RVP went for a certain friendly, picked up a five months injury and all over sudden we had no reliable center forward to pick other than a recovering Eduardo (bendtner was also injured at the time, not that I felt he was an answer then.). This happened close to December and I remember all of us screaming for a CF to be fetched In Jan to assist to finish the job we had started earlier in the season. The same January we had Bolton, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool in that order. Wenger knows best as usual and we were playing with Arshavin as our CF ( I have no words to say to this,really). Now Chamakh was available and for a price in the region of 7-10M. Why didn’t we get him? Because he was out of contract in the summer so Wenger wanted a fee closer to 5M or less. In a business world that acceptable, BUT we were GOING FOR THE TITLE FOR CHRIST SAKE!! But no, to Wenger money comes first, always will. We relied on Bendtner for the rest of the season and we all know how that story ended.

        Take for example Manchester United this season. RVP was out of contract in the summer, but they are thinking of only recovering the title from their noisy neighbors (or so they call them). They paid 24M FOR CRYING OUT LOUD and look what its doing for them!!!

        Now am not saying we pay Barcelona 100M and get Messi, but 7M for chamakh (back then he was good before we killed him) was a little price to pay to at least challenge all the way to the wire that season. But Wenger sees savings and profits first, then trophies later. I mean Barcelona asked just once if they could have Song and my oh my he was gone, just like that. Our 2nd best player the previous year, and to add salt to wounds, no replacement.

        Look you say what you want about my ‘never have been manager’ , but this constant behavior every season has made even classy players like Cazorla, Wilshere and others look average because Arsenal is always imbalanced, something is always missing to make us a formidable force:-

        2008-2009 – sold our entire mid (flamini/gilberto and hleb) and rosicky was injured and we made one purchase in Nasri. We badly needed a holding/CDM to no avail.
        2009-2010 – Highlighted above
        2010-2011 – commanding center back, chased Gary Cahill forever, waiting for him to be free (ha, again).
        2011-2012 – Fabregas replacement, Rosicky come to life but in March whe the season is ending. We chased Mata and Hazard for ever.
        2012-2013 – We are lacking Song’s and RVP’s replacements.

        Am an arsenal fan, always will be and so will my next generation. But what is, is what IS!!

      • Scott (USA) says:

        Thank you Gerry for your views. I totally agree with all of this.

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      Dianjub, you are good on history I’ll give you that. But beneath many examples you give, there are details that are omitted. Much of the period you speak of is covered by the stadium debt. Now whether the FFP has any effect on our multi millionaire supported rivals who knows, but we are in a stronger position now than any of the last 7 seasons. Which is why I think this transfer window will be different. But even so, we still cannot match the wages the others seem to continue to offer. Take the last two names you mention; Mata and Hazard, and I will throw in Lukaku as a bonus. In each case we made an offer, but clearly Chelsea were prepared to top it by far more than was in our gift to spend, Plus our wage structure, however flawed you think it might be, would again be dwarfed by owners who thought Torres was good value at £50m? You cannot defeat them in a straight fight in a £ for £ punch up.
      Much as our scouts try and keep our targets a secret, it still comes down to the selling club, and beyond that, the player wanting to play for Arsenal rather than anybody else. Ergo, the David Villa saga will go on a bit longer. The M’vila move could still happen if, as I said before, he turns down the other club’s offers. That is the reality.
      In reverse, it is the same when a player wants to leave. Cesc only wanted to go to Barca. RVP only wanted to go to Man U. I don’t think Walcott wanted to go anywhere else if he squeezed out the best deal he could. Which he has done. Have Arsenal over-valued him as a player? Probably. But as to removing the anti-Arsenal propaganda that would have followed if he had left; i.e. Arsenal are ‘a selling club’, etc, etc, it will be worth every penny. Indeed, it may secure some future signings that you so badly crave? I am not naming names, but there are alternatives out there yet to be unearthed.
      Keep the faith, eh?

  2. abdulahi demola,lagos nigeria says:

    Hav a nice and enjoyable trip,hoping we get gud wins 2 make u post winning articles on ur arrival

  3. Gerry Lennon says:

    Have a good trip Desi. I will miss your blog, but you can catch up on the games later?
    I think losing the ‘eminently winnable’ tag will be a help. For a start our players will know that they have to be on top of their game. As you say, we do have other players to come in and sharpen things up a bit.
    At least the COC semi’s have shown us we are not that bad … two goals better than Chelsea in fact??
    These are the games that can put our first half of the season into perspective. Presumably the ‘Walcott saga’ will be done and dusted, and with his new found wealth and status he will start playing for the team wherever he can be most effective, and not on a personal glory hunt?
    Whatever the results, Arsenal will still be here on your return.
    Cheers

  4. JohnW says:

    I will be sirprised if Man City takes all the three points from us. We always do well when they dont have Yaya Toure, believe me; and on Sunday i expect we will find the edge in midfield, and as you know, Arsenal are a different proposition when their midfield click. I’m however a bit surprised when you say, Arsenal should exit the FA so as to concentrate on 4th place. In the PL this season, no team is exceptional, therefore I dont think the chances of Arsenal winning the FA as as outlandish as it seems. Besides, a final is a final, anyone can win it. I want us to progress next week, hit Brighton and take it from there. Desi, have you forgotten that Arsene has a pretty good record in this cup?

  5. Winner says:

    Well we may be in denial, but I think the current squad so lacks balance that it has morphed into a very mediocre side. Surprisingly at the beginning of the season I felt Arsene had put together the most balanced side in years. I now think that that stability was because of the Diaby influence both offensively and defensively. In my view Diaby will be the key in the Chelsea and Man City game. Without him I have to admit that Arsenal will be vastly inferior to both Chelsea and Man City. The stats do not tell the whole story as always. At Old Trafford we were so poor that we could easily have conceded more than five goals. Against the Spurs we were very poor until Adebayor intervened with his moment of madness. Against Newcastle the team was disappointing for the first seventy or so minutes. I may be harsh but my assessment is that the team has played well in only four games so far this season; that is Liverpool away, Man City away, Reading away and Southampton at home. In two of those games the opponents were really poor. In most of the remaining games the strike force was impotent and blunt, the midfield failed to impose itself even against weak teams such as Southampton, Villa,Wigan and QPR. Since the Chelsea game the defence has looked jittery whenever attacked. Put together all these factors have conspired to make the present Arsenal an enigma.
    Something is missing from this team, and unless that is addressed in the current transfer window, it makes it almost impossible to even try and predict what kind of performance or results the team will deliver. It is frustrating. My bold prediction that I MAKE WITH A VERY SORE HEART IS THAT THERE WILL BE LOTS OF FRUSTRATIONS UNTIL the lack of balance in the midfield and the absence of a prolific striker is addressed. These three games have come too soon for my liking but may cajole Wenger into being more sober in assessing the strengths of the team while the window is still open.

    • emmanuelson says:

      i so agree dis team is good and pomising as i av always said on this blog(even without van persie`s loads of goals),and i still very much agree that this team has almost morphed into a mediocre side cos of the deficiency of balance in d midfield,though the need for a prolific striker is what i don`t think is very necessary as much as d need 4 a balance in d midfield is. as far as i am concern,lukas-olivier-theo can give us what we want in terms of goals,once this midfield issue is addressed and which also bring a drastic reduction 2 d amount of goals we concede. the return of abou diaby is also a solution but temporal,i can say that again and again i ll miss the hell out of you,Desi,and i wish u safe and nice time wherever u go.

    • Dhruv says:

      Wenger as usual will point to the summer window being the most ideal time to strengthen the side, and in Summer, he will point to January. With Wenger, it is always a rollercoster ride. Enjoy it!

    • Scott (USA) says:

      Mediocre? That is just silly. Arsenal are a very good side. Not great but very good.

  6. Scott (USA) says:

    Enjoy the vaca Desi and this will all be here when you return. Really like your take on things. Tough month coming for Arsenal. COYG!!!!!

  7. Ferdinand masinde says:

    I never get it with wenger apologists!we surely need DM signing like yesterday,..in IMO we miss song much more than RVP.with a good DM the defenders are not panicky and our OM are not drawn back to defend.also ramsey seems to be regressing..with him in the team we never play well but typical wenger he persists with certain players..arshavin,rosicky why are they not playing?

    • Scott (USA) says:

      If I have Rosicky and Arshavin I can’t understand picking Ramsey. It just doesn’t seem like the logical choice. The experience and quality is not comparable. I thought Arshavin was sitting because he was going in January but no word on that so why is he sitting? Great going forward and gives us so much more. Doesn’t track back but either does Ramsey. Rosicky is just a great player and hope he is ready to go.

  8. Aussie Jack says:

    With Arteta out and Ramsey in plus Koscieny suspended and Mr `slow coach` in ,both Swansea and Chelsea look like adding more misery to the Arsenal camp.
    After 65 years of following Arsenal I have to say that the best thing that can happen, from supporters point of view is ,we lose almost every match til the end of the season, Arsene Wenger and cronies get the `arse` and Usmanov and Dein start a half billion pound rebuild. That`s what the name `ARSENAL` means to me.

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