Wenger made three changes to the starting line-up from the Bayern win. Monreal came in for Gibbs, Diaby for Ramsey, and Oxlade-Chamberlain for Rosicky. I was a little concerned when I saw that eleven as it seemed Arsenal were at least a player short in the will-keep-and-rotate-the-ball department, particularly considering Swansea had an extra technical ball playing midfielder with Michu playing as striker.
The first real chance of the game fell to Oxlade-Chamberlain who found space on the left and was easily able to skip past Rangel’s challenge in the box. The youngster failed to hit the target with his shot grazing the bar.
Apart from that the first 20 minutes of the game belonged to Swansea. They completely suffocated Arsenal and stopped the visitors from building their attacks from the back. This is very clear from the passing stats during this period.
It is not every day that the Gunners get out-passed to that extent. It’s interesting to note that Swansea attempted over 200 passes in the first 20 minutes. They just gave a lot during that period with intense pressing, excellent organization, and superb ball circulation.
This also gave them greater dominance in the final third. Rangel and Michu failed to hit the target when very well placed. Those were the chances that Laudrup must be regretting. A lead at that stage would really have tested Arsenal’s confidence.
After about 20 minutes till the end of the half, Arsenal started growing into the game with Diaby and Cazorla seeing a lot more of the ball. Possession was still marginally dominated by the hosts but the two sides were much closer.
And now it was the visitors who were started to get into advanced areas whereas the hosts saw more of the ball in their own half.
In fairnes though, neither side created many noteworthy chances.
The second half had a similar theme. Again Swansea had more of the ball but it was in deeper zones.
There was only a five minute portion in the second period, roughly between mins 55 and 60, when Swansea had some attacking impetus.
It was during this period that Michu missed a good chance when free at the edge of the box, Hernandez went close with a long distance effort, and then had his shot blocked at the back post.
Despite their suffocating control in the early part of the game, Swansea weren’t able to create as many chances as such domination usually results in. Arsenal’s organization and discipline played it’s part for sure but the hosts also missed Michu in his more effective role in the hole. With his deployment as a striker, the Swans missed a target man as well as a clever player in the hole. This made things a tad easier for the Gunners.
Wenger’s team also did a very good job of denying space to the opponents who just couldn’t take players on in the attacking areas to make things happen. In contrast, for most of the game, Arsenal were able to create small openings in tight spaces and looked more like the side that would get a goal. Successful take-ons were part of most of the chances they created.
That said, it took two good substitutions from Wenger to finally make the difference. Diaby had a decent outing but he wasn’t able to bring the attacking players into the game as often as he should have. Oxlade-Chamberlain too had some impressive individual moments but his combination play was distinctly average. Wenger took off two of his most ineffective players and brought on Ramsey and Gervinho. Neither would win the popularity stakes at the moment but they bring a different tactical mindset to the team. Their presence and movement created better angles for the team.
To be fair to those who’d been taken off, the goal did have an element of luck and wasn’t really a great combination move with the substitutes playing a big part.
I thought Arsenal might have committed a foul when they won the ball back from Dyer. Then when Giroud got in the way of the ball reaching Ramsey, it appeared that the chance was gone. Somehow Monreal found a way to sneak the ball between two lunging defenders and a diving goalie. Was it deliberate or did he just scuff his shot? Hard to tell but it was the kind of game where luck was going to play some part.
…they defended well as well. We defended well. It was a game of defensive stability. We just needed an opening somewhere. It was down to the team who scored the first today.
In the preview, I’d mentioned the feeling that Arsenal would need two goals to win this game. That wasn’t the case in the end but I doubt many fans would have felt comfortable till Gervinho scored in injury time. It was a quick break with good work from Cazorla, Giroud, and Ramsey in the build-up. The Ivorian was again a touch fortunate with his finish as a Keeper of Vorm’s quality normally saves shots that close to his body. But I don’t think too many people will grudge him that goal.
It was a much closer game than the 0-2 score line suggests, just as the reverse fixture was. Swansea might feel they deserved something for their effort but ultimately they just didn’t have the quality in the final third. Zero shots on target won’t win many points.
Fabianksi: Another good composed performance. His best and possibly only real save of the game came from a well-placed shot by a marginally offside Michu. Distribution could use some work.
Jenkinson: Continued his good form from the previous game. Apart from a calamitous pass across the face of his penalty box, there weren’t any noticeable mistakes from the youngster. His movement and passing the the attacking areas was useful.
Mertesacker: Oddly enough, he had a fairly uneventful game. Wasn’t able to get tight to Michu when the Spaniard turned and shot after Jenkinson’s mistake but other than that he had a trouble free night. Was steady with the passing but had very few duels, tackles, or clearances to make.
Koscielny: Was a bit more busier than Mertesacker as he had to make some covering runs in behind and a couple of useful tackles. Swansea engaged him in a few aerial duels but they didn’t really have Bayern’s ability to win knock-ons and build attacks.
Monreal: Guess he should get the MotM for the vital goal and a controlled performance on the flank. Nothing fancy, nothing daft. Was reliable on the ball and took up good positions. Could possibly have done better when Rangel got in behind. The view of many fans might have been different had the opposing full-back scored the first goal.
I thought the defenders were under pressure in the opening 20 minutes or so but did well to hold a good shape. There were a couple of big chances conceded so there is room for improvement but given some of the hara-kiri we’ve seen in the recent past this seemed like further steps in the right direction.
Arteta: Seems to have lost something, I can’t put my finger on it yet but he isn’t able to bring the ball forward as consistently as he used to. Maybe teams have realized he’s the main guy for the job and have been pressing him effectively. Passing figures remain impressive, work rate is unquestionable, as is his positional and tactical awareness, but he’s not quite at the level we’ve seen from him in the past.
Cazorla: Was involved with virtually everything Arsenal did going forward. Simply superb in that regard. His ability to hold on to the ball and create space in tight areas was very useful. Even in the build-up to the first goal he took a couple of defenders out of position with his run. There remains a tendency to shoot when teammates are better placed but this won’t go away overnight. Is probably another candidate for the MotM.
Diaby: There were glimpses of the old Diaby when he strode past opponents or simply dominated his zone on the pitch, but it was just that, glimpses. Passing was steady but not the kind that fostered attacks. Positioning and choices seemed to be on the conservative side and when he did venture forward he either ran out of ideas or couldn’t find the execution. Still very rusty.
The midfield didn’t have an outstanding game to be honest, but it was a hard working display that was sufficient to get the points and another clean sheet.
Walcott: Struggled to get into the game as Swansea denied him space. Made some interesting runs but there was no one in the midfield who could play early balls. Maybe a little out of the blue, but Song’s contribution from deep in making Walcott effective last season came to mind. Might have to work on his runs and choices in order to link with the midfield style that we will see for the rest of this season.
Giroud: Was the target of a number of long balls but Arsenal didn’t really know how to play that game. Work rate was again very good and I like the way he tries to move all over the pitch to get involved with the play. Lay-offs and attempts to link were slightly better than some of his previous efforts as the chances for Cazorla in the 19th and 52nd minute, and the pre-assist for the second goal show. Also picked up a good assist after unwittingly getting in the way of Ramsey getting an open shot at goal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain: Hit the bar twice and had a couple of other impressive moments but on the whole he remains a work-in-progress from a tactical point of view. Doesn’t quite know how to get involved or the choices to make on and off the ball. There were times when he picked the wrong pass or moved blindly into a crowded space when better options were available.
The forwards made a limited contribution but Giroud was involved in both the goals and his incessant efforts to improve are commendable.
Subs: Gervinho’s movement was impressive but he still looks shorn of confidence. Hopefully, the goal will help. Ramsey again showed his versatility all over the pitch. Gibbs didn’t have much to do but it was good to see him fit to take on the field.
Wenger: Good work in defence continues but there’s a long way to go still. The process of finding a balance between attack and defence is also ongoing. His team haven’t been at their outstanding best in attack despite a couple of hugely impressive two-goal away wins. Rotations and substitutions have worked well, credit for those choices.Follow @goonerdesi