Arsene Wenger has claimed that Thomas Vermaelen and Wojciech Szczesny still have a big role to play for the remainder of Arsenal’s season, despite the pair being excluded from the side that exited the Champions League to Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
Arsenal now have just the prize of a Champions League place next season to play for as a 2-0 win in Munich was not enough to keep them in this year’s edition. Ahead of a crucial trip to Swansea on Saturday, Wenger has insisted that Vermaelen and Szczesny, along with the rest of the squad will have to fight for their place.
“They are two outstanding players who are part of our squad,” he explained, according to Arsenal’s official website. “They have played so many games until now. Their position is very important in the squad.
“All the players are in the same position: nobody is guaranteed a place in the team. When you go into this job, you know you have competition.”
Arsenal currently lie five points outside the top four but Wenger still has belief that his side can make the Champions League for a 16th consecutive season.
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“I always believe we have the quality to be in the top four,” he said. “Ten games is a long way to go and it is down to consistency.”
Arsenal have struggled against Swansea since the Welsh side returned to the Premier League having lost the corresponding fixture at the Liberty Stadium last season and also going down at the Emirates earlier this campaign. The Gunners did have success in the FA Cup third-round tie between the sides earlier this season, as they won 1-0 in a replay.
Having already secured the first major trophy in the club’s history when they lifted the League Cup last month and safely ensconced in midtable in the Premier League, Swansea manager Michael Laudrup will have to ensure that his side retain their motivation for the remainder of the season.
Laudrup could be boosted by the return from a hip injury of Leon Britton. Chico Flores and Kemy Agustien are still ruled out.
For Arsenal, Jack Wilshere remains out with an ankle problem. Wenger has also confirmed that Lukas Podolski and Bacary Sagna will again be missing, while Nacho Monreal will come in for Kieran Gibbs.
Swansea City (probable)
D: Rangel, Monk, Williams, Davies
M: Ki, De Guzman
Dyer, Routledge, Hernandez
D: Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal
M: Arteta, Diaby
Walcott, Cazorla, Gervinho
Prediction: Lukasz Fabianski looked solid in his first appearance for Arsenal in more than a year in midweek and may well keep his place in goal. The side generally looked better at the back, although that judgment comes with a heavy caveat given Bayern’s hesitant display.
At the other end, Arsenal still struggled to create chances as their play in the final third continues to look lackluster.
Swansea should be in determined mood to bounce back from last week’s defeat to West Brom and could take further points off Arsenal this season.
Swansea 1-1 Arsenal
Where to watch: The Barclays Premier League encounter will kick-off from the Liberty Stadium at 11 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by the Fox Soccer Channel. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.