Swansea City v Arsenal: Take your chances, lads
MICHAEL Laudrup may still be chuntering today about the missed opportunities which cost Swansea City their place in the Capital One Cup.
Laudrup, after all, has spent quite a lot of time grumbling about wasted chances of late.
It has been a familiar tale ever since Roberto Martinez began the possession revolution at the Liberty six years ago.
Swansea have regularly dominated games, but their control on the pitch has not always been mirrored on the scoreboard because of a failure to put the ball in the net often enough.
There have been three examples inside the last eight days — at Valencia, Crystal Palace and Birmingham City.
Happily for Laudrup, Swansea's inability to convert a decent percentage of their opportunities did not do them any harm until the last of those games.
They won 3-0 in Spain and 2-0 at Selhurst Park, but still Laudrup bemoaned his team's profligacy in front of goal.
As if to prove the manager's point, Swansea went down 3-1 at St Andrew's having created enough in the final third to have been out of sight by half-time.
Laudrup was frustrated, for he had not planned for Swansea's defence of the League Cup to end so soon.
But for all his disappointment, the Dane insists the same old story of chances missed will not become a theme of the season.
"Of course we have the players who can score goals," Laudrup says.
"We have scored seven goals in five Premier League games and 13 in five European games.
"Overall we have scored 21 goals in 11 games and that's not bad, an average of almost two goals a game.
"But yes, we should score more.
"That's because we created a lot of chances, but we have to put them away.
"If we have to be positive after Birmingham, we can say we created a lot of chances in every game whoever we have been playing against.
"But we have to score otherwise we can lose — as we saw on Wednesday night."
Laudrup ought to have confidence in his front players.
He signed the majority of them, after all.
And his belief is understandable given that Michu has started the new season in such spectacular form that he looks capable of surpassing the extraordinary achievements of the last campaign.
Wilfried Bony, meantime, has offered Swansea a new dimension in attack, for he is a rugged, powerful frontman who can bully defenders — as witnessed in Valencia — but also has the technical quality to find the net.
Admittedly, he might have finished Birmingham on his own.
But it is worth remembering that Bony's late header made it six goals in seven Swansea starts, an excellent return for a player who has only just arrived on these shores.
Whether he starts or comes off the bench, the Ivorian can be expected to give Per Mertesacker and Co something to think about when Arsenal come to the Liberty tomorrow.
This is a player, after all, who Ashley Williams says he likes to avoid on the training ground.
Bony and Michu are forwards with the talent to give any opposition manager in the Premier League concerns.
If the likes of Alvaro Vazquez, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer can also come to the party through the campaign, Swansea should score enough goals to keep Laudrup happy.
What must improve, however, is the collective conversion rate.
Against Arsenal this weekend, Swansea will not create the flurry of opportunities which came their way in Birmingham.
There may only be one or two big chances, and Swansea's frontmen must ensure they become the game's big moments.
If they are wasteful once more, Swansea cannot expect to trouble an Arsenal side who have begun the season in excellent form.
Not for the first time — remember Swansea's visit last December — the flak was flying in Arsene Wenger's direction when Aston Villa won at the Emirates on the opening day.
But the Gunners have put the false start behind them in spectacular fashion, winning eight successive games — including one via a penalty shootout at West Brom in midweek — in all competitions to reach the summit of the Premier League and make a fine start in their latest Champions League campaign.
Arsenal, of course, are used to coping with the demands of Europe — this is their 16th successive year competing in the Continent's top competition.
Swansea, by contrast, are just finding out about the strains which being involved in the Europa League bring.
Birmingham was their third game in six days — and the third away from the Liberty — although in truth, there was no sign of weariness in their performance.
It was a lack of quality which cost them in the second city, not a shortage of energy.
Yet as Swansea prepare for a welcome return home, Laudrup has conceded for the first time that European involvement can be taxing.
"You see it not just in this country, but in many others as well, especially with teams who are not used to playing European football," he says.
"It is not so much tiredness physically but, because of all the games, the players can lose a bit of focus.
"It's not so much the number of games, but the fact that you can have three in three different competitions in six days, as we have just had.
"Leave aside talk of being tired, but it can be difficult to focus sometimes.
"And that's why I've always said that while it's nice for a smaller club like us to do well in the cup competitions — they are a fantastic experience — you can never forget about the Premier League.
"That's why I have been so pleased with seven points from our last three games."
One more tomorrow would be a decent return given the run Arsenal are on.
Then again, Swansea have proved more than once since reaching the Premier League that they can upset Wenger's team.
Arsenal were beaten in an SA1 thriller two seasons ago, then came that famous Michu-inspired win in North London last term.
On each occasion there was one obvious similarity — Swansea took their chances.