Arsenal slip up to bogey team Swansea yet again to provide us with yet another bump in our road. Actually, ‘bump’ is too lenient. Mountain is more befitting. With our London title rivals and leader Leicester city also slipping up, the importance of this game was second to none, and we simply could not afford to lose this game.
Arsenal started with sheer attacking fluidity, with many moves being constructed inside 10 minutes by the offensive players. The team looked sharp, Campbell representing form that has been missing from Walcott’s game. Alexis also unluckily struck the face of the post soon after and the team eventually made the breakthrough. It was this duo, Sanchez and Campbell, who linked together to score the goal on the 14th minute mark. Sanchez chipped the ball between the gaps in the Swansea back line for the unhesitating Joel Campbell with a accurate sliding finish. All good for the Gunners so far, and they continued their onslaught. Joel Campbell the antagonist again, finding Mesut Özil in space who’s shot was blocked, but a determined Hector Bellerin had a long range effort smothered upon by the initial flap from Lukasz Fabianski.
Swansea then looked to burst into colour through the form of Wayne Routledge, who terrorised Mertesacker down the channel, knocking it inside to Leroy Fer who narrowly hit over. It was not long until Swansea came in with the party pooper, caused by some very questionable defending from Jordi Amat first of all, as he forgot he was actually playing football and not taking part in a Wrestlemania submission match with Özil. The next piece of laughable defending came from Per Mertsacker, who was clearly pondering about what was for dinner tomorrow night. Jack Cork latched onto Amat’s header as Özil lay as a heap on the ground, who threaded the ball to Wayne Routledge, beyond the attentions of Per Mertsacker, and ran through on goal placing the ball past Petr Cech. The next big chance was engineered by Aaron Ramsey, who was out to haunt his ex Welsh rivals. Ramsey elevated a pass to Mertesacker, who then knocked down brilliantly to Olivier Giroud, smashing the bar with every ounce of strength in his veins.
The second half did not replicate the sprightly start to the first, with Sanchez having the first real chance on the 56th minute when the ball flashed just wide of Fabianksi’s post. Moments after, Özil found the lively Chilean with a delicately plucked free kick that presented Sanchez with a golden chance to score once again. However, his fresh air attempt was not enough to startle the polish goalkeeper, as the ball bounced into his hands. Swansea were determined to prove they were still in this fight, and indeed they were, which the scoreboard proved. Gylfi Sigurdsson rounded Czech Cech and then pulled the open gaol effort wide, to the relief of 55,000 Arsenal fans. Sanchez then smashed the crossbar from a free kick, as he attempted to end his league goal drought.
Then, on the 74th chaos ensued. The Icelandic talisman Sigurdsson whipped in a delivery which was bundled past Cech by Ashley Williams. 2-1 Swansea. Arsenal with 0 points from a very realistic 3. They needed to act quick. Giroud showed his annoyance in schoolgirl fashion by throwing his arms in the air and stamping his feet as his header was held by Fabianksi. The game fizzled out after attempt after attempt was squandered and the Swansea 10 man back line stood strong.
If there’s anything positive to take from this game, it’s the large difference in the teams belief and ability when we are missing key players. It showed us how permeable our defence is without Laurent Koscielny covering the cracks. It proved that although Francis Coquelin has been exceptional for the majority of his games, the diversity in team cohesion is massively affected without Santi Cazorla standing by Coquelin’s side. At the times where we are heavily reliant on our team being fully fit and coming together as a unit, we just are not capable of a strong title charge with the current team, and more importantly, the form of certain individuals.
“We had all the ingredients to win the game,” Wenger told Arsenal Player.
“It looked like everything was against us tonight. They had two shots and two goals. We hit the bar, we hit the post and we were unlucky with the first goal because I think there was a foul [in the build-up]. I’m very disappointed by that.
“Football is football, it is cruel sometimes. We need to live with that and show that we can bounce back.”
“We played well,” added Wenger. “We dominated the game and in the second half I think we had 65 per cent possession. We had many shots on goal but after we looked tired at the end and it became more difficult.”
Wenger looks to sympathise with the team after the loss, which I am not sure will benefit them. Although it would be arrogant of me to assume he remained fully sympathetic with the team, I feel a more sterner approach would be more befitting. Many people are totally unaware of the coaching style Wenger adopts, but as proved by Mourinho, Sir Alex and Pep Guardiola etc, an autocratic approach seems to work better with championship winning teams. We cannot afford to make any more mistakes, as one more loss will simply demolish any hopes of winning the title, if they are even still intact.
Shots on Target: 4/2
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal; Ramsey, Coquelin; Sanchez (Walcott,75);Özil, Campbell (Welbeck,64); Giroud.
Swansea: Fabianski, Naughton, Amat, Williams (c), Kingsley, Cork, Fer (Fulton, 71), Ki Sung-Yueng (Sigurdsson, 45), Routledge, Ayew (Rangel, 90), Gomis.