After what has seemed like eons, the Premier League is back following the mammoth international break, and the first match for Arsenal is a toughie.
There are many factors that make Swansea a more difficult opponent than their league position implies.
Firstly, the Swans are unbeaten in their last four trips to The Emirates, winning three of them.
Then, you have the much fabled ‘honeymoon’ period when a new boss takes over.
When a manager takes the reins at a new club, invariably the players rise to the challenge of impressing the new man on the sidelines. They realise that their immediate future is in the hands of the manager, so a performance packed with intensity and drive is usual fare in the first few games.
Bob Bradley hails from the US – just in case you missed this groundbreaking news in amongst every story that has touched on the subject – and the former Le Havre boss seems to have garnered more attention than most due to the fact he is the first Manager to cross the pond and take charge of a Premier League club.
It matters little where he hails from, what is of substance is his track record, and Bradley knows his onions.
Bradley will be keen to carry on the habit of winning at Arsenal, after Michael Laudrup, Garry Monk and recent incumbent Francesco Guidolin all took the points, but there are some pointers which point towards positivity for Gooners.
The Gunners have earned five straight wins in the League, and have kept four clean sheets in the process. Most of the plaudits have deservedly gone to fresh defensive pairing Shkodran Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny, and they will continue in the centre of the backline after returning unscathed from international duty.
In terms of injury, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are still out, but Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey have returned to full training – although they lack match fitness so won’t be part of Arsene Wenger’s plans.
Francis Coquelin has also returned from his knee injury, and will he slot straight back into the side? Wenger is normally loath to change a winning side, so Granit Xhaka and Santi Cazorla should be on the teamsheet for the Swans game.
Alexis Sanchez played for Chile on Thursday, and even though he has the stamina and appetite of a greyhound with worms, even he will be feeling the effects. Will Wenger drop him though? Perhaps Lucas Perez will get a nod? We all rightfully doubt it. If Alexis is fit, he will play.
Either way, the returning players will come in very handy over these next few weeks. The fixture schedule comes into play in a massive way now, with seven games in just 23 days. Squad strength is a big boost to any side, and we now have it, with competition in every position. The rival for their shirt will keep performances up, and also keep the first choice player refreshed if the hectic schedule starts to bite.
Back to today’s game, and with a near full strength roster to pick from, confidence high from a winning run and the players knowing they will have to fight harder than ever to hold down a spot, we should be looking forward to a win.
Swansea desperately need the points, and have previous results on their side, but they will be missing Fernando Llorente and Jeferson Monteiro, so two of their biggest hitters will be out of the game.
That will help our cause, but at The Emirates, we should not be fearing other players. We have more than enough in our locker to hurt any opponent, and with spurs and City ahead of us at the start of play, we need to keep the pressure up.
Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Xhaka, Cazorla, Iwobi, Ozil, Walcott, Sanchez.
Predicted Score – I can’t decide. My head says 2-1 win to Swansea, my heart says 2-0 Arsenal.