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Posted: 15/01/2012
By Michael Strevens
Category: Match Reports

Swansea 3-2 Arsenal: Gunners in Dyer-straits

Team: Szczesny, Djourou, Koscielny, Mertesacker (Oxlade-Chamberlain), Miquel, Song, Benayoun, Ramsey, Walcott, Arshavin (Henry), Benayoun (Rosicky), van Persie

The Short Report

Another dodgy refereeing decision cost us a goal, but it couldn’t mask what was a desperately poor performance. Swansea fully deserved their victory, which was much more emphatic than the scoreline suggests.

The AL Report

The first thing to say is that Swansea deserve enormous credit for their victory and for beating us at our own game. They dominated possession, made nearly 100 more passes than us and played a refreshing brand of football that you see all too rarely outside the top four. For our part, too many players failed to deliver, whilst our injury ravaged defence is leakier than an Italian cruise-liner.

Missing full-backs aside, we felt the absence of Mikel Arteta more keenly than anyone else. In much the same way as Gilberto, you only really notice him when he’s not there. Aaron Ramsey and Alex Song struggled without his reassuring presence in midfield. Elsewhere, the boss kept Thierry Henry on the bench and Andrey Arshavin was hoping to build on an unusually energetic display in the Cup.

Having conceded just four goals and lost one game at home all season, Swansea were always going to be a tough nut to crack, but we managed to cut them open with just four minutes on the clock. Robin van Persie appeared to hesitate after receiving Arshavin’s superb pass, but he produced a cool finish with his chocolate leg, beating Michel Vorm at the near post.

The hosts refused to let this disastrous start knock them off their stride, but it took an extremely dodgy decision to pull them level twelve minutes later. In real time it looked as if Ramsey clipped Nathan Dyer but replays showed that Aaron was lucky to escape another broken leg as Dyer raked his studs on his shin. To add insult to injury, Dyer went down after minimal (if any) contact. Whilst difficult to see on TV, referee Michael Oliver had a clear view of it and should have spotted at least one of the misdemeanours. Wojciech Szczesny guessed where Scott Sinclair would place his spot-kick but couldn’t do anything to prevent it nestling in the back of the net.

We had chances to regain the lead before half-time, notably through Ramsey and Van Persie, but Swansea looked the most likely.  The skipper cleared a header from Spurs loanee Steven Caulker off the line, whilst Dyer went close with a powerful shot.

The home side were in front within twelve minutes of the restart. Joe Allen robbed Ramsey in midfield and drove forward before picking out Dyer on the right. The winger had the time to correct a poor first touch and fire past a hesitant Szczesny who was caught in two minds about whether to come off his line. It was hard on Ramsey whose afternoon went from bad to worse as his every touch was jeered by the Swansea fans.

Arsene Wenger sent on Henry, in the hope that he would come to our rescue again, but the man who took his number 14 shirt got us back it into it. Sent through by Johan Djourou’s excellent pass, he chipped it over the onrushing Vorm to make it 2-2. The goal was completely against the run of play and a rare moment of quality from Theo who had been abject up to that point.

Straight from the kick-off, we found ourselves behind again as Henry gave the ball away, allowing substitute Gylfi Sigurdsson to burst through and pick out Danny Graham. Szczesny got his angles wrong, leaving Graham plenty of goal to aim at. He punished with us with a composed finish at our most vulnerable moment.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made a lively cameo, but we couldn’t find another equaliser in the remaining 20 minutes. Swansea were deserving victors, while we were left to contemplate defeat number seven of the season.

Man of the Match

Laurent Koscielny has been our star defender this season and his performances have been consistently good despite so much upheaval at the back. Even if he was guilty of playing Graham onside for the winning goal, he was one of the few players to emerge with any credit. An acrobatic effort at the end might have nicked us a point we’d have barely deserved.

Player Focus

Theo Walcott scored a good goal, but contributed little other than that. The frustrating thing is that is seems so reluctant to use his explosive pace to take his full-back on.   His contract is up for renewal, but he just hasn’t delivered consistently enough to justify the huge pay rise he is reportedly asking for. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should be given the chance to prove his worth over the next few weeks at his expense.

Moan of the Match

Nathan Dyer was rewarded for a serious foul and a blatant dive with a penalty by referee Michael Oliver.  My real moan however was the team’s reaction. In the past, we have seen Arsenal sides respond to a serious injustice with determination but it completely knocked the stuffing out of us and we let Swansea impose their game on us.

The Final Word

The euphoria created by Thierry Henry’s magic moment last week has well and truly evaporated after yesterday’s fiasco. We have been struggling for goals for a while now and it is clear that this full-back situation is crippling us. Ignasi Miquel and Johan Djourou did their best yesterday, but we cannot carry on like this for much longer. I hope that Wenger’s reluctance to bring in defensive reinforcements is because Bacary Sagna and Kieran Gibbs will be back soon. If we have to wait much longer, then I fear that Chelsea and fourth spot will be out of sight.

Next up: We have a whole week to brood on this defeat before Manchester United come to town. We all know what happened last time we met and the chance to avenge that humiliation should be all the motivation we need.

Follow me on Twitter: @Mike_N5

Category

2011-12 | Match Reports

2 Comments

Darren Bowser wrote on 16/01/2012 15:23

The principal concern for me is the lack of ability to control a match and possession is a key factor, although our tippy tappy has been replaced by a more direct and efficient style we have lost some of our possession dominance and thus our back line is more exposed, Swansea was a typical example. Whilst we may be more compedent as defenders 'defending' we are exposed by a lack of possession that once acted as a defensive element, this is how Barca essentially defend. ie you don't have the ball you cannot score. We have fixed the centre back issue but now we have less goalscoring threat and less possession. That means the team has gone backwards despite the obvious need for a big step forwards from last year's position. Defeat against Manchester United would be 3 in a row, if we are not careful it may not even be Arsenal on Channel 5 but Arsenal not on at all.

Darren Bowser wrote on 16/01/2012 19:17

I don't want to even contemplate the idea of an end of season collapse. Hope dear god Jacky, Bac and co can help turn it around.

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