At the risk of picking at scabs before they’ve fully healed, Carl Jenkinson played the full match against West Brom, which implies that he might be rested on Saturday, good news considering how he was undressed against Swansea in that infamous 2-0 loss last December. Mertesacker and Vermaelen also played the full match, which poses some interesting questions. Should we see Koscielny and Sagna as center-backs with Jenkinson on the right, or should we see some combination of Koscielny-Mertesacker-Vermaelen in the center with Sagna on the right? I might opt for the latter option, starting with Kos and Per flanked by Gibbs and Sagna. In front of them, we should see Ramsey and Flamini. The leadership and command that Flamini has established already has been a minor revelation of sorts, and Ramsey, well, what more can be said about the form he’s currently in? In front of those two, we should see Wilshere, Özil, and Gnabry. Before you slap your forehead over Gnabry, ruing his performance against West Brom, remember a few factors: one, he played 73 minutes against Stoke the previous Saturday; two, the squad was a mish-mash of Academy and first-teamers that lacked continuity; and three, his spot-kick was actually decent although blocked. Of course, his fitness could be a concern, playing his third match in seven days, but we can hope that youth is an advantage in that regard. With Özil adjusting nicely to life in the Prem, Gnabry, Giroud, and Wilshere should see plenty of chances, especially if Swansea’s defense is a bit unsettled by the potential absence of Williams, not to mention the dispiriting effect of having lost mid-week to abruptly end Swansea’s title-defense.
As we consider positions and players, having Gnabry and Wilshere in the attacking midfield suggests that Giroud’s role in the striker-position will be vital. Özil’s first Prem assist did come, after all, with Giroud on the other end, and with Giroud’s emerging penchant for going near-post to score, look to Özil to find Giroud a number of times in or around the box. After a strong start to the season saw Giroud score five goals in six matches, he’s been quiet in his last two appearances but may again find the scoring touch as he roams the penalty area, from which all eleven of our Prem goals have come. Özil has already created more clear-cut chances (10) than any other player in the Prem, and he should find plenty of space to add to that number against Swansea, who play an attacking style similar to ours albeit with less technical ability. With questions about their defense, the Özil-Giroud axis could prove to be the difference in this match.
For as much as we may have underestimated Swansea last December, we’ve since won twice and drawn once against them and look ready to improve on that account on Saturday. I’m going out on a limb to predict two goals for Giroud, one of them assisted by Giroud, in yet another 3-1 win for Arsenal. Make your own prediction in the comments section below—thanks!