How often have we played Swansea this season already? Too many. Arsenal finished a professional 2-0 win erasing painful memories of a 2-0 reverse at home. The game was well balanced with Swansea playing solid possessive football that the Gunners could not match at times. However, the Arsenal made it count when it mattered with new boy Nacho opening his account and Gervinho putting away a rare no nonsense finish following a break. Taking 3 points at Swansea is no mean feat considering they are unbeaten at home against Chelsea, Man United and Liverpool this season.
Swansea started better and closed the Gunners quickly while making timely interceptions. This pressed the Arsenal team back and for the first 25 minutes, it was Swansea who were in control of the match. Nonetheless, Arsenal fashioned better chances with Swansea’s closest coming from an error from Jenkinson. Michu had a bad miss. Oxlade Chamberlain went close hitting the bar twice while Santi’s long range dipping shot was punched and then saved.
Cazorla and Oxlade Chamberlain were the brightest sparks as Giroud and Walcott were quiet.
Arsenal had little luck finding space between Swansea’s midfield and defence. As a result, play swung around the perimeters of Swansea’s flat banks of four. Cazorla and Oxlade Chamberlain were the brightest sparks as Giroud and Walcott were quiet. With Arteta pushing forward, Diaby looked out of sync with the team, getting involved in play more like a van blocking traffic than a tank ramming through. The half ended with honours even at a fair scoreline of 0-0.
Arsenal raced out of the gates with purpose but the final ball again failed them. The game was thrown open with both sides attempting to snatch all three points. On a rain soaked pitch, the match turned into a scrappy affair with either side failing to come close and fashion anything concrete. There were threats and intents but both defences held firm when it mattered. Swansea made crucial blocks and interceptions while Arsenal tightened up as the team reverted to a containment strategy. The attacking players continued to press and the introduction of Ramsey and Gervinho opened up Swansea as Cazorla dribbled through before Monreal profited from a scramble in the box.
It is strange to be 1-0 up.
I have to say it is strange to be 1-0 up. Maybe I have adapted to the team being 0-1 or 0-2 down too many times this season. With Swansea pouring forward, Wenger introduced a fifth defender in the form of Gibbs taking the ineffective Walcott out. Maybe he was hungover from his birthday. It also signalled a change in stance from the old French manager as he rarely puts a defender in even with a 1-0 lead. Arsenal sprung a few counter attacks as Swansea looked to tie the game. The first was a blocked Cazorla shot. A second counter soon followed after and Ramsey sent an accurate low cross from the right flank that found Gervinho. Forehead decided not to mess up today and finished it without the usual hesitation.
The game was won and sealed. 3 important points in the bag. The defence looked improved with the only error coming from Jenkinson. It is hard to pick out any defender that played well because the team defended as a unit. Everyone did their jobs and there was no stand out performer. Fabianski had barely anything to do despite Swansea having a good share of possession and attacking intent. It was a good match. Simple, effective with no nasty surprises.
Diaby was poor. He was slow both physically and mentally. He couldn’t find his usual self when attempting to power forward. Showing plenty of caution, he decided to play safe which resulted in plenty of balls being pinged with no penetration. His passes began to fall short and it became very easy for defenders to dispossess him. Diaby did improve in the second half, showing off some good surges forward. However, his decision making was poor. He does look out of sorts and needs a few games to get back to what we saw early this season. Whether he’ll get injured again in those few games is the question.
He has great potential but injuries and resulting form slumps are something we cannot afford both tactically and financially.
At this point, I’m not sure if we have reason to keep him in the team. He has great potential but injuries and resulting form slumps are something we cannot afford both tactically and financially.
Santi was at the heart of every move. With Diaby looking out of sorts and Walcott having a quiet game, he swung from left to right and was our single point of penetrative play. The first goal came largely from his mazy run through the box. He also tracked back, pressed forward and gave his 100%. I hope he gets a chance to rest. It was a man of the match performance from the tiny Spaniard. He is without doubt our best signing of this season.
I hope this adds to the growing evidence that we need to balance pressing and containment. Per wasn’t given stupid instructions to charge forward and Kosc kept in line at the back. CJ and Monreal also played safe. The same can be said of Arteta and Diaby. The rest of the team were instructed to press hard. Every attacking player did so when needed. This is the defence we saw early this season and hopefully this will be the defence that continues to play. I don’t really think its down to having Kosc and Fabianski in the team. Rather it is because Wenger is finally deploying the right strategy for the right players.
Wenger is finally deploying the right strategy for the right players.
At 1-0 up, we didn’t do anything stupid. In the past, you would see TV5 or Kosc charge all the way to the opponent’s byline. This time we fell back, put up a few fast players in front. Giroud assumed defensive duties as Gervinho played off the last defender to make use of his speed. It paid off and more importantly, we didn’t do silly things in defence.
It was a pleasing game. A game that wasn’t the greatest display of football from Arsenal. How often have we watched fanciful play fall flat to a loss? A simple 2-0 win done with a minimum amount of fuss and drama is what the fans have been starved of.
9 games to go. Make it count.
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