After what seemed like, at least to this reporter, about a month of internationals, Arsenal finally get back to it against newly promoted Swansea. After the misery of their last match and the mild catharsis of an active transfer deadline day, there really couldn't be a better time for Arsenal to face one of the top flight's new boys.
Since Swansea are new to the Premier League, here's some quick background. After three matches they sit at 15th position in the table with two points (or, two spots higher and a point more than Arsenal. I hate August). They have yet to score this year, losing 4-0 at Manchester City and then drawing 0-0 at home to Wigan Athletic and Sunderland. They're already out of the Carling Cup after losing 3-1 to Shrewsbury Town (!) in their first match. They won promotion from the Championship last year after finishing third in the league, then defeating Nottingham Forest (who I was really hoping would make it up) and Reading in the play-offs.
So far this year in the league, they've had a pretty static lineup, so I feel like I can actually make a prediction as to who we'll see lining up on Saturday (starting with the keeper):
Angel Rangel - Ashley Williams - Steven Caulker - Neil Taylor
Leon Britton - Kemy Agustien
Nathan Dyer - Wayne Routledge - Scott Sinclair
Aside from that, there really isn't a lot to definitively say about Swansea. This is their first year in the top flight since 1983, so it's not like they have recent Premier League history to fall back on. They were good in the Championship last year, so they shouldn't be taken lightly by Arsenal, but they were in the Championship last year, so they should be beaten by Arsenal.
So now on to us. In the past week Arsenal have lost two crucial players to long-term injuries; first Jack Wilshere, then Thomas Vermaelen. Obviously that's not great news, but at least in Wilshere's case we pretty much saw this coming. Additionally Gervinho and Alex Song are still suspended for their various Joey Barton-related extracurriculars, and Carl Jenkinson will miss a match after his two yellow cards against Manchester United, and will thus not be participating. Abou Diaby is shockingly (though not really at all) still injured, and Sebastien Squillaci still has a nebulous calf injury, so both will miss the match as well (though honestly, that may be for the best). And finally Tomas Rosicky will likely face a late fitness test, as he's had a knee problem during the international break.
On the other hand, reinforcements! According to Arsene Wenger, both Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott will be available after injury issues claimed them. He also said that "all the other players came back from international duty in good shape," so that's a nice change of pace. Presumably this includes Bacary Sagna, back from his viral infection (if not, I have no idea who our third-choice right back is. Santos? Gavin Hoyte? Theo?). In addition to that, we've got a litter of new players that have yet to see their first action in the red-and-white after our transfer window bonanza. With Vermaelen injured and Johan Djourou likely still suffering from whiplash from the Manchester United game (you know, from watching footballs whiz by him into the net), I would wager that Per Mertesacker will get the start alongside Laurent Koscielny in defense. Also he loves Tony Adams, so that's a point to him. The same goes for Mikel Arteta (the part about starting, not the Tony Adams part. I have no idea how Arteta feels about Tony Adams), partially because of Wilshere's continuing absence and partially because he is awesome. With Gervinho gone it's possible that we'll see Yossi Benayoun starting on the left wing, though far less likely than Mertesacker and Arteta. I find it unlikely that we'll see Andre Santos or Park Ju-Young starting; Santos hasn't played competitively since the Copa America and with Robin van Persie fit I can only see him getting the nod. Both are possible (or likely) on the bench, possibly with Benayoun.
So here's my predicted Arsenal starting XI:
Sagna - Koscielny - Mertesacker - Gibbs
Arteta - Aaron Ramsey
Walcott - van Persie - Andrei Arshavin
I'd really like to see Benayoun start, just because I like seeing new signings quickly, but I doubt the boss decides to debut three in one match. He may be the first man off the bench. I believe we'll stick with the same formation we've seen so far this year, with Ramsey and Arteta alternating forward runs and Frimpong serving as the midfield bridge. If Frimpong does get the chance, I hope to see a bit more restraint in his play, learning a lesson from his helter-skelter performance against Liverpool. All in all, this is a home match against a newly-promoted team, and with the new boys Arsenal have brought in, we really should be winning this match.
Prediction: Mikel Arteta justifies the buzz and the ₤10 million, assisting RvP once and Theo once, then scoring a goal of his own. He then immediately becomes every Arsenal fan's favorite Spanish player ever, his name ringing down from the terraces in song. Meerkat falls asleep at halftime and is replaced by Benayoun, then wakes up after the game and tries to take Arteta's man of the match award. Arsenal sue some high school in Indianapolis to celebrate the win. Arsenal 3-0 Swansea.