Saturday, September 28, 2013
Swansea City vs Arsenal
Table-toppers Arsenal will see their Premier League title credentials tested when they visit Wales to face Swansea on Saturday.
Arsene Wenger's side head the division from rivals Tottenham on goal difference thanks to four victories from their first five matches and travel to the Liberty Stadium looking to extend that run.
New signing Mesut Ozil – who arrived from Real Madrid for a club record transfer fee of £42.5 million – has made a bright start to life at Arsenal and will once again be expected to star, while Olivier Giroud heads into the fixture joint top of the league's scoring charts.
Giroud has netted four goals in his five Premier League matches so far this term, while Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey is also in outstanding form.
The 22-year-old has already netted seven strikes for Arsenal in all competitions this season, including four in his last three matches.
Wenger resisted the temptation to use his stars in Wednesday's Capital One Cup third-round win over West Brom but his faith in his fringe players was rewarded as they progressed on penalties following a 1-1 draw.
"I am proud. We played with many young players and they showed they are not only good footballers but that they can fight as well," Wenger said afterwards.
With many of Arsenal's big names rested, Wenger avoided any further injuries to an already depleted squad.
Theo Walcott will miss several weeks with an abdominal problem, and midfielders Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Abou Diaby (both knee), and striker Lukas Podolski (hamstring) are long-term absentees.
Spanish midfielder Santi Cazorla (ankle) has an outside chance of returning on Saturday, but is more likely to play on Tuesday against Napoli in the Champions League, when Tomas Rosicky (thigh) is also set to make his comeback.
Meanwhile, Swansea's Capital One Cup defence ended on Wednesday as they slumped to a 3-1 defeat at Championship outfit Birmingham City.
Manager Michael Laudrup also played a second-string side, making 10 changes to the team that beat Crystal Palace 2-0 in their last league fixture.
But their form prior to that cup defeat had been good, with a four-match unbeaten run highlighted by a superb 3-0 Europa League win at Valencia.
Swansea – who lost their first two Premier League fixtures of the season – have bounced back and climbed to ninth in the table.
Club captain Ashley Williams (ankle) missed Wednesday's defeat and is a doubt for the Arsenal match, as is midfielder Pablo Hernandez (hamstring).
Swansea have enjoyed a good record against Arsenal since earning promotion to the top flight, winning two of their four meetings, while they also forced Wenger's side to a replay in the third round of the FA Cup last season.