First off, congratulations to Swansea on a great season. Winning the Capital One Cup in their 100th year must have felt wonderful. Laudrup has them playing well, playing a style that resembles ours, and so I do look at them as a kid-brother of sorts. Of course, we all know what kid-brothers are for–they’re to be pushed around so they don’t get too big for their britches. We might be proud of what they achieve–and this does include beating us once–but it’s time to knock them down a few pegs.
Coming off of the win over Bayern does give us some momentum and sends a signal to other teams on our fixture-list that rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated. Bayern hadn’t lost at home since October 28th, and see where that got them with us. Swansea hasn’t lost since December 8th. As I mentioned previously, Michu has slackened off of his pace from earlier in the season with three goals in his last ten games. Sure, they have some other players, but I’m convinced enough of our quality and mentality going forward that I’m more interested in the players who take the field for us.
There’s been some talk of selling Vermaelen and Szczęsny in the summer, talk that Wenger has quickly rubbished. I prefer not to indulge in transfer talk, but it was good to hear what Wenger said when he elaborated: “every position is up for grabs.” Sure, you may scoff as you ponder who sits on our bench and how well they can compete for various positions. Is Giroud looking over his should after each fluffed shot and worrying that Gervinho is about to come in? Probably not. Three days ago, Szczęsny didn’t have to worry about Mannone taking his place, not to mention Fabianski, who hadn’t played for us since Redknapp was measuring the curtains for the office of England’s national team manager. Now, however, the young Pole does have to worry about his position in the starting XI. Fabianski, I daresay, has earned the right to start against Swansea. Szczęsny is a big boy. He’ll figure out that he has to train and come back to earn his spot.
The same goes for Vermaelen. Even as our captain, he shouldn’t come to feel that he can just roll out of bed and start each game; he, like everyone on the squad, should feel like he has to prove his quality, if not every week. Let him sit another match. Koscielny is strong, and he worked well with Mertesacker and Jenksinon against Bayern. With Gibbs out, Monreal should also come on, if only so that we can have four different nationalities in the backline.
In the midfield, I’d love to see Rosický come on for Wilshere. Similar drive, more experience, if less talent. His well-timed foul on Robben on Wednesday is the kind of guile and steel we need more of, and his tendency to press higher up the pitch could unsettle Swansea. In fact, why not just throw on the same XI that faced Bayern (except for Gibbs, of course)? People meshed and worked well in an environment much-more hostile than Liberty Stadium. For all of the celebration and plaudits given to Swansea thus far, including naming Laudrup as manager of the season and Michu the signing of the season, Swansea are still a fair-to-middling team at home: six wins, six draws, two losses. Then again, we are a fair-to-middling team on the road at five wins, five draws, four losses. Then again, you’re only as good as your last game. Isn’t that right, Arjen? Arjen, are you there? Hello?