After a stunning late collapse to emerge with only a 3-3 draw from a clash with Anderlecht that they led 3-0, Arsenal must bounce back on Sunday to avoid losing further ground in the Premier League when visiting Swansea City. Arsenal had won successive matches in the Premier League for the first time this season to move up to fourth place before Tuesday’s incredible result against the Belgian visitors in the Champions League. It was a performance that once again called into question Arsenal’s defensive solidity. Yet, while Wenger accepts it is an area his team needs to improve, he remains positive about the overall picture as well as still being frustrated by the manner of Anderlecht’s opening goal.
“[The team] were disappointed by I believe straight after the game,” he said in his press conference ahead of the trip to Wales. “It was a shock to come back to 3-3, but overall I think we know we can score goals and we know as well that we can do better defensively, but it’s easier to add the second part of the game than the first part.
“I think we can learn a lot from what happened on Tuesday because maybe subconsciously we thought the game was over at 3-0 -- that is 99 percent of the time the case. But still I think we had some special incidents. There are things we can correct, like goal number two and goal number three. The first goal, we can never have an influence on that, when guys that are one yard offside or two yards offside.”
Arsenal’s defense will remain depleted at the weekend by the absence of Laurent Koscielny to a long-term Achilles injury. Wenger will also be without midfielder Mikel Arteta, who was forced off against Anderlecht with a hamstring strain. Jack Wilshere is ready to return after illness, while Wenger has cautioned that it will take Theo Walcott time to return to full fitness, following the winger’s single substitute appearance on the road back from a nine-month layoff.
Arsenal can ill afford to fall even further behind Premier League leaders Chelsea than the current nine-point gap. They may also have one eye over their shoulder, with Swansea just two points back and able to leapfrog Arsenal with a win at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday. It has been something of a topsy-turvy campaign so far in Garry Monk’s first season in charge. After winning their first three games in the Premier League, Swansea have won just one of their last seven. Yet a 2-0 win over Leicester City and a respectable scoreless result at Everton provides encouragement that they are back on track. One man who will take particular pleasure from back-to-back clean sheets is goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, who spent seven years with Arsenal before leaving on a free transfer this summer.
“I’m trying to do my best in every single game and give everything for the team, and I think I have been doing quite well,” Fabianski said ahead of the game. “With Arsenal I don’t think I have to prove anything to them, it was my decision to leave the club and I finished there in a good way. We all have massive respect toward each other. I’m happy with how everything worked out.
“I am excited. But at the end of the day it’s still just three points and another league game. We play at home so hopefully we can take advantage of that and fight for the win. That will be very good for us and put us in a good position.”
Swansea will be unable to call upon midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, after the former Liverpool man was sent off for two yellow cards against Everton.
Prediction: The problems for Arsenal are staggeringly familiar and frustratingly continue to undermine what should have been a season of truly challenging for the Premier League title. Alexis Sanchez certainly deserves to be in a team fighting for the game’s biggest honors. The summer signing from Barcelona has been carrying Arsenal offensively in recent weeks, while also showing the kind of commitment without the ball that so many of his teammates lack. The form of Sanchez alone could be enough to get a victory on Sunday, but Swansea are a fairly solid outfit and can count on the forward presence of Wilfried Bony, who could dish out further misery to an ailing Arsenal defense.
Swansea 1-1 Arsenal
Kickoff time: 11 a.m. EST
TV channel: NBCSN
Live stream: NBC Sports Live Extra