Swansea, who shut down Arsenal in a pretty comprehensive 2-0 win at the Emirates in early December, now welcome the Gunners to Wales for a Third Round FA Cup matchup.
Swansea City vs. Arsenal
FA Cup Third Round
Kickoff: Sunday, January 6, 8:30 AM EST
Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales
Form: SWN LDDWD 9th | ARS DWWWD 6th
Televisual Coverage: Fox Soccer Channel
You remember what happened last time. Swansea had just made Arsenal look like chumps for 75 minutes or so before Michu dropped the hammer not once but twice to consolidate Arsenal's chumpitude on the day, and not but a few hours later, the FA Cup draw came through, and Arsenal were paired with the team that had just made them look most comprehensively average. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then, to be sure, but Swansea still are a solid team. Arsenal, however, are a strong away team this year, and are in a better run of form over the past month or so, although they looked pretty limp against Southampton on Tuesday.
One thing Arsenal do have right now is healthy bodies. Marouane Chamakh and Johan Djourou, two players who might have featured in this game (well, the latter, moreso, probably), have moved out on loan to West Ham United and Hannover 96. The only injured players, though, are backup keepers Lukasz Fabianski and Vito Mannone, along with Abou Diaby, who is training but unavailable. Emmanuel Frimpong is recovering from illness and won't play. Andre Santos is not available, preventing Kieran Gibbs from getting any rest.
Everyone else is healthy, though, and Arsene Wenger should look at this match as an opportunity to rotate one or two key players around. Tomas Rosicky should start in place of Santi Cazorla, the latter basically looking like a bit like the guy at the end of that Ironman Triathlon whose body just shut down completely in the last mile. Laurent Koscielny will probably return to the bench as Per Mertesacker is no longer yakking everywhere. Francis Coquelin could slot into the midfield in place of Mikel Arteta, too; Arteta has played every single minute of Premier League football this year and most of the Champions League as well, and deserves a break. It's tough, however, because this game is tremendously important, and Arteta is as well. Coquelin could also replace Jack Wilshere, but if he does so, Arsenal will lose a bit of offensive drive while gaining a bit of defensive solidity.
And then there is Bacary Sagna. Out of form by his standards, it is probably time for a rest for him as well. Carl Jenkinson is more than capable of deputizing on the right and should do so tomorrow. It is also possible that Aaron Ramsey start tomorrow, and if he does, it could be on the right, where he will drift infield a bit more than Theo Walcott or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain might from the right. Olivier Giroud will probably start up top, leaving the left, where if it's not Podolski, it could be the Ox or...Gervinho.
Here's a stab at a lineup, even as Wenger has defied me time and time again:
Match prediction: Gromit, of Wallace and Gromit, pops out of a hole that he's dug in the middle of the pitch on the 39th minute, tripping Michu and giving Swansea a free kick somehow. They lash it home and take a 1-0 lead. The second half, though, sees a rampant Arsenal score three times through Mertesacker, who plays emergency center forward after Giroud eats a bad orange at halftime. Mertesacker scores once with each foot and once with his head. Arsenal wins 3-1, Mertesacker gets a raise, and his website gets 509230 hits in an hour.