Swansea 2 – 2 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

Arsene produced a couple of surprises in the starting eleven. Ramsey on the left must have raised a few eyebrows. It could be that Wenger wanted another midfielder in the side to counter Swansea’s technical prowess. It may also be that Podolski needed a breather as he’s used to a winter break. The partnership of Mertesacker and Koscielny was also an interesting change. The German had a tough outing but I liked the idea of giving Vermaelen a rest. Walcott went to the wing and Giroud came back into the centre. Is that the end of the Theo-Striker experiment, at least for the foreseeable future?

It’s also worth noting that Laudrup rested some of his key players in this game. Michu, Pablo Hernandez, and Rangel were on the bench, while Ashley Williams wasn’t even in the squad.

The first half was predictably dull. The fight was in the middle but neither side showed enough quality to genuinely control territory or tempo. Arsenal had a bit more possession while the hosts just shaded the limited chances that were created. A Danny Graham shot that forced a save following a clever long ball, and a Kyle Bartley header that rattled the bar come to mind. The Gunners got into promising positions in and around the box but I don’t recall a big save from Vorm in the first half.

Arsenal showed genuine desire to press higher up the pitch but they lacked cohesion – as has been the case all season – and this gave Swansea some opportunities to break forward. Laudrup’s team didn’t have enough precision, composure, and finishing quality in the final third.

The start to the second half was better. Arsenal’s pressing was more urgent and it forced some mistakes. The play was concentrated in the Swansea half for a while. There were a couple of shots from Giroud, a penalty shout, and other promising moments for the Gunners in the initial 10 minutes of the second period.

An injury to Giroud broke their momentum and gave Laudrup a chance to bring a couple of his big players on. Michu’s impact was instant but it was again a case of terrible defending. This goal wasn’t dissimilar to the first one he scored at the Emirates. In that instance it was Vermaelen tangling with Graham, this time it was Koscielny. Mertesacker was caught square on and the slowness of his reactions proved costly. He should have started dropping back the moment Koscielny went into that duel. Will someone please explain to me why Vermaelen – Kocielny is not a good pairing while either can be paired with Mertesacker? Genuine question that.

For a few minutes the game was stretched. Both sides were getting some space in the attacking areas. Then something strange happened. Swansea stopped playing. It’s a problem we’ve seen with Arsenal when they sometimes take the lead and don’t know how to proceed. And just like the Gunners, Laudrup’s side does not look like an assured defensive unit when they decide to sit back and invite pressure. From around the 65th minute onwards it was all Arsenal.

The hosts allowed Arsenal to set camp in front of their defensive third and their nervousness, apparent from the sloppy manner in which they kept losing possession, boosted the visitors’ belief. Even when one promising position after another was squandered, most fans on either side would have seen the goal coming.

It came from a corner that was seemingly too deep. I liked the way Sagna headed it backwards and kept it away from the Swansea goalkeeper and players. Was Koscielny trying to shoot or just playing it into a danger area? Podolski’s finish on the turn was superb.

The second one came soon after. Gibbs played a one-two with Giroud and scored with a well-timed volley. The full-back had gotten into useful areas often. This time he had the end product.

After the goal Swansea’s nervousness was transferred to the Gunners as they retreated into their half. The moment it was clear Arsenal were trying to sit back instead of competing with a resurgent opponent, I could see the equalizer coming. And it didn’t take long.

Once again it was a set-piece and this one looked like a well worked routine. All the Swansea players stayed quite a way away from the usually congested central areas in front of the goal. There was a particular camera angle from which I could not see a single white shirt in the six yard box when the corner was about to be taken. The intention probably was to swing the ball away from the goal with hopes of catching the defence off guard when they’re trying to push up. It worked, in an unexpected manner perhaps, but it did catch the Arsenal players completely by surprise as was evident from the time and space available to Graham despite so many purple shirts in the vicinity of the goal.

Both sides could have won it late in the game. Koscielny forced a big save from Vorm while Tiendalli almost caught Szczesny out on the near post. In the end 2-2 seemed a fair reflection of the events of a largely low-quality game that became entertaining in the final 10 minutes.

All-in-all it wasn’t a bad game from the Gunners. Many Premier League teams have drawn their games. Playing Cup ties away from home is not easy. That said, there’s nothing wrong in demanding more against a Swansea side that rested a number of key players.

Individual Performances:

Szczesny: I thought he could have done better for both goals, particularly the second one. Almost got caught out at the end as he left a gaping hole at the near post. Still has a long way to go to convince me he can be a long term solution in goal for Arsenal.

Sagna: Better defensive game than the previous two efforts. Could he have done better for the second goal? I lost count of the number of his crosses that were blocked by the first man. Nevertheless, it was a hardworking and appreciable shift on the flank as he was often left without support.

Mertesacker: Poor body shape and extremely slow reactions for the first goal. It’s not the first time this has happened either. Was also caught out by Graham once in the first half when the striker managed to get on the wrong side and forced a save. Has some weaknesses when the defensive line doesn’t drop back to the edge of the box quickly and these are exposed more often when Arsenal try to press higher up the pitch.

Koscielny: Did well for the Arsenal equalizer, good header late in the game, and did a good job of covering behind Gibbs. Could he have done better in that challenge with Graham?

Gibbs: Excellent goal and a number of useful runs in the attacking areas. Did leave his flank more exposed than Sagna but it’s to be expected when he’s making that many darts into the opposition box. MotM in my opinion.

I’m usually not critical of the defenders every time the team concedes some goals but in this game the back five should have done better for both goals.

Arteta: I thought he had a sloppy game by his near-impeccable standards. Still an above average game with a useful presence in front of the defence.

Cazorla: Wasn’t able to influence proceedings from an attacking point of view. There were a number of disappointing passes in the final third. Even in that 15-20 minute period when Arsenal were rampant, I don’t recall any exceptional moment from the Spaniard. Was involved in the build-up of many moves, but not in a way you’d expect from a special player.

Wilshere: Another one who lacked precision in the final third. For instance, there was that moment when he played a clever one-two with Giroud but then completely missed the target from a good position. Set-piece delivery was poor. Again, he was there or thereabouts but not quite up to the mark.

The midfield had very little impact on the game in the first half. They showed greater urgency in the second half and often won the ball in useful areas but their creative contribution was very limited. Don’t think the whole is greater than the sum of its parts when we consider the individual quality these three players have.

Walcott: Set-piece delivery was disappointing, didn’t see much of the ball and he often took up positions in crowded areas where his technical limitations came to the fore. Don’t know if he was told to drift into the central areas as often or if it was his decision. Should have stayed wide at times and timed his runs more effectively.

Giroud: Produced a few impressive moments and a number of disappointing ones. The one-twos with Wilshere and Gibbs were exciting, as was the pass for Ramsey that might have resulted in a penalty. But there were some poor touches and wrong choices as well. Should have converted at least one of his chances.

Ramsey: Had a tough time on the left but he did get into some threatening positions more often than most of his teammates. Overdid it a bit in the box though. Created an excellent chance for Giroud. Was that a penalty? Looked like one to me but I can see why it wasn’t given. Wenger’s explanation makes a lot of sense.

The front three were anonymous in the first half. They did influence the game in portions of the second half but better chance creation and conversion is expected. Giroud and Walcott are not technically gifted but they have to find a way to compensate for those weaknesses.

Subs: Podolski again showed his goal-scoring instincts. Why didn’t Rosicky come on?

Wenger: He’s clearly trying to get his team pressing high up the pitch but the work done by Bould seems to demand greater positional integrity in the deeper areas which, in my opinion, has confused the players. Has to sort this out quickly. Also needs to find a way transfer the ‘on paper’ quality of this midfield on to the pitch. Attacking quality is limited, can only be sorted from the transfer market.


35 Responses to Swansea 2 – 2 Arsenal: Match Thoughts And Individual Analysis

  1. I think the only reason Per is played is due to his organizational capabilities. But, he suffers the moment we push high up and when he has a guy with a decent pace against him. I think AW has abandoned the deep line approach, since we are struggling in the middle. Per has been ok, but he will always be susceptible to pace. As you mentioned, per should have fallen back the moment Kos went into the tackle, both were too square.
    Also, for Ramsey’s penalty shout, i do honestly think he clipped himself it was apparent from the replays. I think if you see it again, you might actually see it.
    As for rozza not being used it has baffled me as well. Do you think it could be a case of him not being fit and being on the bench, just to make up numbers? In that case, why is Arshavin being frozen out, surely he could put in a shift for 15-20 mins.

    • Ole M70 says:

      Yes, he do clip himself….after the contact with the Swansea player! “I think if you see it again, you might actually see it…” 🙂

    • chris says:

      Do you realise how difficult it is to be running fast and clip your own ankles ? ! You only need to be brushed by the oppo. So the trick is to run close across or behind the man in front and bank on an ‘ accidental ‘ touch. That is what happened.

  2. adiiii83 says:

    I thought we played excellent. Swansea is a good side and not many teams come away from the cottage with a win. We absolutely smashed them, but made a couple of errors and as we normally do, got punished. It’s pretty obvious now that we can’t keep a clean sheet against oppositions that attack us, and we have to throw out this sitting deep approach and just go all out Barcelona style press, where our 2 CB’s are on the half way line committing challenges. You said Swansea stopped playing. I say that’s rubbish because our pressing once we got behind was phenomenal and it took it’s toll on Swansea, who couldn’t handle it at all. Then we did what we’ve being doing for the last who knows how many years. Sat back and absorb the pressure, which we prove time after time, we can’t do. Once again Wenger’s tactics come into question. Why only one sub? It seems like he’s afraid to take off certain players. Arteta was not needed late in the game, as Swansea never had the ball. Could’ve easily taken him off and played Rosicky as an extra attacking mid option. Sagna was no longer defending either, so you could’ve put on the OX as an attacking full back. It’s a worrying site when you can predict every game what the manager will do. As the case was against Newcastle and Southampton, my friend asked me who will come off and on, I picked it and same last night. I said Podolski will come on and I don’t see any other subs happening. I really don’t think we need much of an edition to this squad, I just think the management attitude has to change. They need to take more risks.

    • santori says:

      Swansea are an excellent side.

      Laudrup has crafted through meagre means a good team which was competitive even with 2-3 of their better players on the bench.

      Dare I say he shares similar ethos to Wenger (a replacement in future)

      Meanwhile, Michu remains buy of the season. An intelligent player who seems leaner and more mobile than our Giroud.

      Dare I say we should consider making an offer for him (since he cost so little, even a 100% hike would be affordable)

      At very least, it will prevent them scoring against us in the rematch. Come on Wenger you have less than 10 days.:)

  3. Dianjuh says:

    Hey Desi,

    Am not sure I know whats the solution to Arsenal any more. I mean I always thought it was about not signing players. But cazorla, Podoloski and Giroud are good players, why we dont get results I dont know. Looking at the transfer market what do we have? David Villa, Adrain Lopez, Zaha, Turan? Sorry but other than Villa (who again is past his best), the rest a pretty much in the same league or even slightly lower than Cazorla and Wilshere. Since we cant buy CR7, Messi or Neymar, then I dont know. We can balance the team by getting a natural goal scorer and CDM, but am not optimistic that the performances will change unless our players decide to stand up and be counted. Something needs to change. and one of those things is playing the same old formation, all games all competitions against all opponents….(sighs!!)

  4. Ogejohns says:

    The weak link in our defence is the right full back manned by sagna. I what experience he is playing at his age, (please jenkinson is better than sagna period). I strongly believe that wenger collects some tight from ramsey, if not why is Arshavin and Rosicky not playing. Is ramsey better than them? Carzola is creative, arsenal needs a tricky midfielder who can play in a defence splitting pass. Arteta is trying but, wenger must go get m’villa.

    • santori says:

      It’s not the defense entirely.

      Our shape was wrong necessitated by the need to placate Walcott.

      Tactically, we were narrow and the gaffer should have recognised/switched this round much quicker.

  5. Nizam says:

    The defence is still a big,big problem. Until and unless Wenger takes steps to stiffen it, forget about winning trophies. Defence has helped helped teams to win trophies. Italy 1982 won with a good defence.FF 2012 Chelsea won the cl with superb organisation in defence and QPR beat Chelsea with a good defence .
    Over to you ,Wenger.

    • chris says:

      Wenger needs to back off and let Bould drill the defence (and the defensive organisation of the team at large.) He did so early season and it showed. Sadly Wenger does NOT like another stealing the limelight !

  6. A says:

    Have to disagree about Walcott’s delivery. His corners are whipped in at a good pace, something no one else does as well in our side at the moment. While his direct free kick attempt was poor (So was Cazorla’s), our first goal came from his corner, and his corner also resulted in the late chance for Kos. Walcott also created a couple of opportunities for Giroud. He still looks much better than last season.

  7. terry says:

    I think the problem is physical presence in the midfield… teams are not scared of us.. we need players who scare the opponents… the midfield three have to make their presence felt…hussles the opponents and goes in with tackles at the opponents.. .. arteta has been very poor of late and the same can be said about sagna… we need a player in the midfield who can defend and at the same time see an opportunity and assist in attack… a younger Gerrard or a toure like player… i really think M’villa is that player…

    • santori says:

      There are other suitable options other than Mvila.

      Capoue and Sissoko are equally big frame (if not taller), the former being more effective than MVila in intercepts and also providing better dynamism going forward.

  8. oz gooner says:

    I believe we have really become a mid table team. We can no longer dominate sides like we used to. We are unable to break down organised defensive sides and unable to defend against good pacey attacks. If you look at the second Swansea goal I believe we have 7 men in the six yard box and no one was marking the goal scorer.that’s shocking ! Despite a couple of flattering scores, we are struggling. I don’t believe one new signing is going to transform this team. I still believe ,as I did last season, that the change must start from the top.With the present set up the trophy drought is set to continue.

    • ibk emmanuelson says:

      i dont buy ur idea of us being a mid-table team,we have world class players,but just a few wrong in our rights is wat is making our rights look like wrongs. 1st and foremost,koscielny,vermaelen pairing is not just good cos they both are natural “6”(i.e left side of d centre defence). vermalen due to his stronger foot,and koscielny due to his ability to win duels(either 4rm d aerial or on d ground) naturally. while per is also a natural “5”,cos of his calmness,sweeping,blocking,interceptions and height,he could av been extremely perfect if he has a fair amount of pace,and can win much more of aerial balls he currently wins. so verm,kos, cant pair cos both cant compliment each other,like d way either of them will compliment per. Moving on,i said it d last time i commented on this blog dat,a real DM is needed in dat team,a physical,hard fighting,firm,always marking player is needed b4 we can start seeing wat we fans wanna see in our midfield,and its high time cazorla started sitting,dont get me wrong,he is special,but his lack of EPL experience is really telling on him,which is very normal,and happens 2 every player dat switch 2 EPL 4rm other leagues,1 way or d other,and d solution is he sits and watch others play,probably come 4rm d bench too,then bit by bit,he understands how it is played. rosicky is a perfect person 4 cazorla 2 watch and learn from. and i still cant understand why rosicky is not playing. when d new DM comes,our midfield trios should be DM-wilshere-arteta, or DM-rosicky-wilshere,DM-wilshere-diaby,or anyhow wenger pleases,while cazorla watch 4rm d bench. else,d pressure remain on our defence,cos we ll continue 2 loose possession more often which affects our attack,and there wont be proper shielding 4 our defence which means we will continue to concede “stupid goals”. i believe dis team is good enough 2 challenge 4 trophies,with 1 or 2 additions,.

  9. Miguel says:

    The did well to but am not happy becouse to seaing Rosiky in the bench atlist rosiky surpose to state that game to get fitness it will be creadit to arsenal

    • Gerry Lennon says:

      I read elsewhere that Rosicky is being given extra time to be ready for the next two ‘difficult’ league games?

      • chris says:

        Well perhaps that is why Rosicky has been left out. It has made no sense. We have plenty of technical skill in midfield – more than most. But they lack pace and lack strength and lack ball winning. Wenger thinks if you put all your most skilful players out there … it must be right. (eg. Arshavin left wing). But it is a blend we have needed. Also a blend between attack and defence. Open play and set piece etc etc. He takes for ever to accept policy errors and change them.

      • santori says:

        That would be silly.

        He needs to ease in to games.

        Some of the players (Santi, Jack, Arteta) in the game will likely be needed more against the up coming teams.

  10. Gerry Lennon says:

    Good write up Desi, much as I saw the game. I would tweak your analysis here and there though.
    SZC – Perfection is hard to come by. Their first goal unfolded very quickly, so he had no time time come out. It may look like he got down low too late, but remember that guy is a classy finisher?
    TV & Kos? – My view is that they are a bit similar in their play. TV may not have Per’s organisational skill(or can transmit it to others?). Whereas, with Per, they both know that they can make the tackle higher up the pitch because Per won’t.
    Cazorla – His best work in the second half was bringing the ball forwards, but his passing, particularly ‘key passes’ was well short of what is required. Could do better with shots too, given his technical ability?
    Ramsey – I thought he had one of his better games in so far as he kept to position. That was important as it kept our shape.
    Walcott & Sagna? – That previously very good partnership looks to be broken whilst Walcott is looking to be the ‘star man’. Sagna is the sufferer, hence too many duff crosses. People please remember that Jenks is still gaining experience at this level, don’t expect him to match Sagna, either positionally, or in a two on one defensive area?
    No argument over MOTM. Once people(and players?) accept that he cannot be in two places at once, then we can fully appreciate what he can give down that left flank. His goal was sublime.. Many a player could have fluffed that, Podolski the possible exception, but we know how technically gifted he is when he controls difficult balls in an instant? Just hope and pray these testing games don’t bring another injury?
    A replay was not what either side wanted, but timing of it could be crucial?

    • santori says:

      Gibbs took his goal excellently and was good going forward.

      However his primary role is defense. In that, he was not helped by our shape. That said, he should have done better.

      not MOTM for me.

  11. JohnW says:

    Thank you Ogejohns, I have said all the time that the problem in our defence is first, the slow midfield and two, Sagna. Sagna gives you 80 minutes of committed defending, and then for a vital 3 or so minutes he switches off. In case any one has not realised it, I want you to concentrate on him on Sunday, you will see what I mean. That explains why although Gibbs is very offensive, you dont see MANY goals from his wing that are of his own making. Sagn has the problems that Clichy suffers from.
    Finally, we might have won this game had Arsene brought on Rosicky in midfield for the final 10 minutes for precision and energetic passing. He didn’t and we have to do it again. But there were positives from the game. It will teach our players that we have to up the temple, because that is Swansea’s main weapon, not because they are as technical as Arsenal.
    In the modern game, you must be willing to chase, whether you have the ball or not. Sometimes, we’re slow, you cannot afford to be slow now. I have this feeling that Arsenal will be the only British representative in the CL after February, but only if we work on our pace, because this used to be our weapon many seasons ago.

    • Redcore says:

      Have to disagree with you. Sagna is the one perfectly functioning part of our defence for the last few years. The problem as Desi pointed out was TW drifting off infield leaving Sagna with no-one to pass to. Also he does not track back as much as Poldi / AR. Last night his work rate was exemplary as usual and you cant blame him for either goals.

  12. That’s too hard, Desi. The Gunners played a superb game. No team, Barca inclusive, takes all her chances. Already being touted as Swansealona, Arsenal out-possessed them by 54% to 46%, and importantly dominating their final third, created far more chances and scored two great goals with nine minutes remaining.

    RVP rescued Man U against West Ham and all continue to hail the Dutch and Man U’s fighting spirit. For what it is worth, Gibbs goal is even more superb, being a defender’s goal. Swansea is 9th on the table while West Ham sit 11th. Between Man U and Arsenal, which played better? Both forced replays!

    This Arsenal team can annoy you on consistent basis, but for crying out loud, why criticise the team when they’ve given it all? In that match, only Ramsey deserved to be subbed because we had a proven goalscorer on the bench. Every other arsenal player was on fire when they went behind till the end. Wenger, rightly, didn’t want to disrupt the flow.

    On Walcott, Wenger has finally seem to have craftily marshaled out ways to maximally play him. Walcott lacks presence in the box. He lacks aerial prowess and knock downs and hold-up plays of a Giroud but posses positional sense, pace and great finishing. Playing him around the hole between the left back and the nearest CB will prove most beneficial. it is left for Sagna or Jenkinson to cover the wings and make the crosses expected of Theo. I witnessed the tactical masterclass and nodded in front of my TV. Once perfected, Arsenal attack, with Podolski from the left will be much more effective. Of course. Theo should occasional drift to the wings to confuse the opposing defense.

    In all, give the GUnners thumbs up. They deserve it this once.

    • santori says:

      The figures for possession between first and second half are astounding.

      Almost same number of passes made (243 first half to 260 second) but 46% possession first half to 60% second.

      Wenger attempted to experiment with Walcott in tandem with Giroud in a 4-1-3-2.

      Unfamiliarity and a narrowing of shape did not bode in our favour. When we push Walcott wider second half and then brought on Podolski, we became more threatening. It wasn’t an issue of Swansea stopping their play rather our increase effectiveness with a better shape.

      Plus disagree with assessment on Gibbs being MOTM. To me, Jack put in a massive shift for us.

  13. Rohit says:

    IMO Gibb’s goal was very similar to van persie’s goal against everton last season!!!

  14. Ramsey is shit says:

    Your reviews are shit did you even watch the game???
    Ramsey penalty?? He tripped over his own fucking feet!!!

  15. karl martins says:

    We need Alex Song!

  16. santori says:

    Arsenal suffered the effects of Walcott being deployed in tandem with Giroud.

    Basically we set up in a 4-1-3-2

    Walcott floated off of Giroud but did not afford us width.

    Instead, Ramsey (why do we continuously use him out left when Rosicky is available??????) was a little tucked in

    Therefore Swansea had advantage in the wide area with Tinedelli in particular getting much joy against GIbbs (Dyer in good support)

    How you can vote Gibbs as MOTM is beyond me.

    He was excellent going forward but his flank (defensively was extremely brittle.

    Once again, lessons not learnt for the second Swansea goal as we switched off and let a man through at the back.Arteta could have done better stepping up earlier but to me, he looks leggy likely the effects of overuse which bears the question why Wenger is not moving in for an alternate DM quickly (good it be …gasp…Diaby coming back)

    Where we improved was when Podolski came on and Walcott was played wide right affording Sagna more cover, better shape in general and understanding.

    But the threat to our flanks was never resolved even with Podolski on and Wenger must bear some scrutiny (again) as to why he took so long to rectify from an experimental system leaving us exposed, to a more farmiliar (and likely more suitable) one in 4-3-3.

    Also his choice of Ramsey questionable. The young Welshman played decent and showed some signs of improvement but to me, he is still better off through the middle. Particularly (AGAIN) where we have assets out at LW unused in Arsharvin and in particular Rosicky..

    • Scott (USA) says:

      Agree with your Gibbs assessment. Good going forward and gets caught pushed up way to often for me. I assume he thinks with his speed he can recover but just doesn’t when teams counter. As for missing Song. I don’t and never will. I agree we need another CDM to cover Diaby but Song was never good enough IMO and overated as Barca are finding out. Not sure about M’Villa but I do like Capoue.

  17. Scott (USA) says:

    P.S. Rosicky is quality and hpoe he gets in game shape soon. And Why is Wenger not using Arshavin? He is way better than Ramsey out wide even though it’s not his best position.

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