Arsenal V Swansea at Emirates Stadium : Match Preview

30 November 2012 02:31
Arsenal V Swansea - view commentary, squad, and statistics of the game live.

Wenger gears up for crucial spell

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger feels the next 12 matches will determine whether his side can force their way back into contention for a shot at the Barclays Premier League title.

The Gunners head into the clash against Swansea down in seventh place, some 12 points behind leaders Manchester United following their midweek draw at Everton.

However, with four of Arsenal's upcoming December league games set to be played at the Emirates Stadium, Wenger is confident his team can use home advantage to catapult themselves up the table.

"We will come back. Now we have six games, four at home, and if we do well in this block I think we have a chance to come back, but of course it is vital for us to do well in these games," Wenger told Arsenal Player.

"At the moment the two Manchester sides [are top]. They have not been spectacular, but efficient, and they have made the maximum of the chances they have created.

"For example, Manchester United have already lost three games and have lost in the Champions League as well. It is exactly what we have done, but they took more points and had less draws than we did. That has been the difference until now."

With Laurent Koscielny set for around a month on the sidelines after limping off at Goodison Park with a thigh strain, captain Thomas Vermaelen looks set to return to the centre of defence against the Swans.

The Belgian has been utilised on the left in recent weeks, but produced a solid display helping shackle countryman Marouane Fellaini and track Croatia frontman Nikica Jelavic.

"It was certainly his best game since the start of the season in this position," said Wenger.

"That will boost his confidence and hopefully get out of his mind what happened before when he was not completely confident. He was physically sharp, confident, calm and important for us."

Arsenal will check on the fitness of right-back Bacary Sagna, who has a foot injury, while forward Theo Walcott, who fired the Gunners ahead inside a minute at Everton, will also be assessed after taking a knock to his ankle.

Meanwhile, Swansea manager Michael Laudrup believes Wenger still has the backing of the Arsenal supporters.

The Frenchman has come in for stick from Gunners' fans and was subjected to chants of `you don't know what you are doing' over his substitutions during last weekend's goalless draw with Aston Villa.

After the midweek draw with Everton, the Gunners sit seventh in the table, just one place ahead of the Swans.

But Laudrup firmly believes Wenger will have the support of the home fans when kick-off time comes, regardless of what has gone before.

He said: "Just because they are unhappy about a change he made, or the performance in one or two games, does not change that they respect him and what he has done and is doing for the club, he has been amazing.

"We also have to be careful when we talk about people booing managers, like with Rafa Benitez at Chelsea.

"How many does the Emirates hold, 60,000? There could be 500 or 1,000 of them who may say 'why did you change that player?' But you cannot generalise and say everyone has an opinion like that.

"I am certain Arsenal fans really respect what he is doing and what he has done.

"That does not mean you can't disagree with something, that is fair enough, but one thing it does not mean is you don't respect him or don't like him."

Swansea head to north London boosted by a superb display in the 3-1 win over West Brom in midweek but Pablo Hernandez, one of the architects of that victory, will not face the Gunners because of a thigh injury.

And Laudrup is unsure whether the Spain winger will be back in time to face Norwich a week on Saturday.

He said: "We don't know yet how bad it is, it is a small muscle injury but for Saturday it will be impossible.

"If he could play against Norwich that would be a good sign. It depends on how it heals.

"If we are lucky he could be back against Norwich, if it is a bit more serious it could be maybe two or three weeks.

"These muscle injuries happen the longer you go with a lot of games, it is part of the game you have to accept and that's why you have a squad so you can use them. From Christmas through New Year, especially if we get through in the cups, we will have a lot of games."

Source: PA