Arsenal take on Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon in what will be a tricky and tightly-fought encounter for the Gunners. With elimination from the Champions League confirmed in midweek despite a valiant effort in Munich, Arsene Wenger will now have to focus his energies on making the top four and qualifying for Europe’s premier tournament again next term.
The way things stand it is not looking great for the north London side. Local rivals Tottenham and Chelsea stand in the Emirates Stadium side’s way in their bid for re-entry to the Champions League, with a five-gap margin between fourth and fifth place. Spurs have opened up a seven-point gap over the Gunners after their north London derby triumph at White Hart Lane.
With Chelsea and Tottenham playing at home to West Ham and Fulham respectively on Sunday, the gap will most likely be widened further should Wenger’s men drop points in Wales. Arsenal lost the corresponding fixture at the Liberty Stadium last season and were also beaten 2-0 at home earlier this term; Swansea have continued their excellent form since then.
A first major trophy in the club’s history has been a fine reward for Michael Laudrup’s men after another excellent season, and before the game the Welsh outfit are only seven points adrift of Arsenal. The likes of Michu, Jonathan De Guzman and Pablo Hernandez will cause a threat to the visiting rearguard, while reported Gunners target Ashley Williams will marshal the hosts’ own defence.
Despite Arsenal have a slightly easier run-in on paper than the two sides above them, one feels that this is a must win game for the Gunners. Should they lose to Swansea for the third consecutive time it is feasible that Chelsea could be eight points clear of them, Spurs ten, and at this late stage in the season it would be extremely difficult for Arsenal to claw that back.