In some respects, last weekend’s 5-2 win at Everton felt like the real start of Arsenal’s season. After all, it was the first time Arsene Wenger was able to field Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez together. The results were spectacular as Everton were unable to withstand their intricate interplay. The performance set the the collective pulses of the Arsenal fanbase racing but the issue is that it’s almost November, and Arsenal have already sustained several harmful results to their Premier League campaign. The key now is consistency: Arsenal can not afford another slip, especially against an opponent like Swansea.
On the pitch, it’s been a feel-good week at Arsenal. The AGM has caused ructions between the board and the supporters but on-pitch results have been promising. Their resounding win at Everton was followed up by Eddie Nketiah’s heartwarming heroics in the Carabao Cup. The 18-year-old came off the bench to bag a brace against Norwich but will probably be left out of the matchday squad entirely for Swansea’s visit. Wenger has plenty of attacking options at his disposal, and the focus this weekend will be on seeing if Sanchez, Ozil and Lacazette can recreate the chemistry they showed at Goodison Park.
It’s taken more than two months for them to come together. Injuries have been an issue for both Sanchez and Ozil but the prevailing uncertainty over their future has surely also been a contributing factor to Wenger’s hesitancy. However, at this crucial stage of the season, Wenger has no real alternative but to call upon his most talented players. Ozil and Sanchez didn’t appear to lack commitment against Everton, with the former in spell-binding form and the latter relentlessly pursuing a goal before eventually finding the net with a stoppage-time solo effort.
Speaking to the media in the build-up to the Swansea match, Wenger threw down the gauntlet to his talented trio of forwards. They have shown some encouraging signs, but the Gunners boss is insistent they will need to produce regularly to retain their places: “They can create chances, they can score goals, but I believe as well that up front you depend a lot on the quality of the build-up at the back. At home the speed of our passing will be absolutely important to create chances.
“Ozil, Alexis and Lacazette were very efficient at Everton and they have to be efficient on Saturday. There is no definite solution; we are in a job where competition counts and, if it works, they have to make it work to keep their position.”
Competition does count but quality is king. Arsenal have a deep squad but when it comes to pure ability, these three are almost in a bracket of their own. There was an immediate and palpable understanding between them when they were finally unleashed. If they remain motivated, their attacking brilliance could be what’s required to offset Arsenal’s ongoing defensive issues.
The likes of Ozil, Lacazette and Sanchez are all likely to be rested given a match with Red Star Belgrade in midweek. Therefore, the Swansea game is the last opportunity that Arsenal’s true first XI will get to build some momentum before the crucial match against Manchester City on Nov. 5. Arsenal fans will inevitably use that game as a barometer for their team’s true capabilities, so it’s essential the team go into that fixture with some semblance of form behind them.
Swansea look as if they could be vulnerable to Arsenal’s three-pronged assault. They may be the only Premier League team to have won more league matches than they’ve lost at the Emirates Stadium, but they’re also in the midst of a dismal run of form. Paul Clement’s side have scored just six league goals all season: Arsenal almost matched that tally in a single match against Everton.
Assuming they can find their way past former Gunner Lukasz Fabianski, this is a game Arsenal should win. However, supporters will be hoping for another scintillating performance rather than merely a satisfactory result.