That wasn’t particularly good was it. The result was the least we wanted because of the results of those around us. It meant that we fall back by 1 point compared to before the start of the weekend’s fixtures. But the bigger concern is with our performance or rather the lack of it.
For anyone who hasn’t seen Swansea this season, their performance justified all the praise that Brendan Rogers and his team are getting. They looked hungry and played withh a style that many associates with us and to a higher level, Barcelona. It’s rare that we do not have the majority of possession in any game, let alone one against a newly promoted side but this was the exception.
With the exception of Mikel Arteta (injured or sick depending on what you read) and Francis Coquelin (hamstring), this was the same side that faced Fulham. Yossi Benayoun (Israeli captain) and Ignasi Miquel were the replacement respectively. Andrey Arshavin also got a start for the internationally committed Gervinho. Even with those enforced changes we were still have more than sufficient quality to beat a newly promoted side.
Yet, we never really got going in the game. The home side were brilliant in their tactic and application. Every single one of them worked their socks off to chase and pressure us, to which they managed to win the ball off us, quickly and efficiently. When they had the ball, they were precise with their passing and with the movements to match.
Despite that, just like against Fulham, we still managed to take the lead. Arshavin played the perfect through pass for Robin Van Persie. Initially I thought RvP missed the chance when he delayed hitting the shot but the delay meant Michel Vorm’s view was blocked by Williams and the chocolate leg finished well. Williams was also at fault for allowing RvP to get away and find the space in the first place.
To their credit, Swansea heads never dropped and they kept playing their way. However, they needed the help of the youngest referee in the Premier League to find the equaliser. Nathan Dyer was judged to have been tripped inside the box but replay will show that Dyer stepped on Aaron Ramsey’s leg instead. Scott Sinclair smashed home the ensuing penalty.
Level at half time and it was worrying to see. Without Arteta we had no one to support Alex Song and the defensive shape was missing. We needed to keep better possession of the ball to have any chance of winning this game. The wide players, Arshavin (that assist apart) and Theo Walcott were largely anonymous in the first half.
We didn’t move any gear higher in the second half. In fact, we got even worse. Dyer was surprisingly left unmarked on the right and his ferocious shot flew past the despairing dive of Wojciech Szczesny. Chasing the game and with practically little possession, Arsene Wenger threw on his last throw of the dice. Tomas Rosicky, Thierry Henry and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were all brought on.
We fared no better but still contrived to find the equaliser. Johann Djourou sent Walcott through and the dink over the keeper was sublime. Again, this was probably more down to Swansea’s lax defending. Within the space of a minute, it was our turn to commit suicidal defending.
We got our way back into the game and let it go almost immediately. Per Mertesacker failed to track the run of Graham and when Laurent Koscielny tried to recover, it was too late. Szczesny had to share a large part of the blame too. He came to close down the striker but got his angle all wrong. Had he stayed at the post, it would have been a better decision. A part of his game that has gone to bits in recent weeks.
This was a very poor Arsenal showing and goes to highlight just how integral Arteta has become to our midfield. Without him, we looked all over the place. Ramsey and Benayoun did not take turns supporting Song. Both were more pre-occupied making the same forward runs. It was also the same when Rosicky came on and we switched to a 2 man midfield.
Easy to blame the referee for turning the game with that penalty call but that is not why we lost the match. Swansea played really well and we didn’t turn up. The resoluteness of the team was missing yesterday. Was it another case of the team turning up expecting to have an easy game against a newcomer to the league? Hard to argue with that point.
As I said at the start, on reflection, losing a point to our rivals after this weekend’s fixtures was not a disaster. But this is looked at missing out at the opportunity to gain 2 points on our rivals and rightly so. The problem with the team is resurfacing again and I fear Wenger is left frustrated at seeing that too, judging by his short post match conference.
This transfer window is turning out to be more crucial than initially thought.