The Emirates Stadium used to be one of the most feared football grounds in Europe, yet alone England. Before that disappointing home defeat to Schalke 04, the Gunners has amassed an amazing unbeaten record of 45 games against non-English opponents, with the superpowers like Barcelona failing to get results in North London.
Last season, Robin van Persie ruled the Emirates with an iron fist, as opposition defenses continued to crumble under his lethal goalscoring powers. Be it an Alex Song dink over the top or a simple Theo Walcott cut back, the fact remained that van Persie was always in the right place at the right time, and he always had the clinical finishing ability to put teams to the sword.
Trust me; scoring 30 goals in the Premier League is no mean feat.
Unfortunately, van Persie has become part of the past and the present isn’t faring too well at the moment, judging from the results on the pitch. Arsenal has managed one league win in their last six games and has won just three in their last nine games in their home ground, with unnecessary draws accounting for the dropped points.
Following two draws on the road, Arsenal welcomed Swansea in familiar surroundings and when the team sheet was unveiled, I must say that I was surprised to see Olivier Giroud on the bench yet again, with the Ivorian buffoon playing as a center forward in his stead.
Injuries to Laurent Koscielny and Bacary Sagna caused the boss to make some changes in defense but the midfield triumvirate remained intact. Lukas Podolski returned from his illness and I’d hoped that Walcott would continue his blistering goal scoring form as he had smashed in five goals in his last five games.
Swansea threatened right from the onset and Thomas Vermaelen had to show great awareness to intercept a Miguel Michu defense-splitting pass to Itay Shechther. Swansea fullback, Angel Rangel, broke free from the right and was allowed to fire two shots in quick succession at Wojciech Szczesny’s goal but the big Pole was up to the challenge.
Arsenal’s first meaningful attack came from the right hand side when Mikel Arteta teed up Carl Jenkinson that swung in an inch-perfect cross to the Swansea danger area. When that cross went into the box, I had pictured Giroud guiding the ball perfectly to the back of the net but reality hit me hard when I saw Gervinho trying to attack the ball.
Even though he has a forehead no different from those predators in AVP, he duly missed his header allowing Chico Flores to head the ball to safety. Had Wenger started Giroud ahead of Le Forehead, that would have been 1 – 0 in my books.
Despite being the away side, Swansea controlled the game confidently in the first half and ran the home team ragged at times. This was epitomized by a Michu flick that got Nathan Dyer on the clear. The diminutive winger covered some ground before bracing himself up to pull the trigger but Vermaelen tracked back superbly to make an absolutely vital block.
The Swans continued to probe the Arsenal backline and Michu was a constant thorn in the Gunner’s flesh. He won a free kick late on after being impeded by Arteta but Jonathan De Guzman fired the dead ball over.
Right at the dying moments of the first half, Arsenal broke away through a neat one-two between Kieran Gibbs and Podolski. The English fullback lofted a carefully-weighted cross to Gervinho’s massive forehead but the Ivorian nodded the ball way off target. Like I’d stated earlier, this would have been bread-and-butter stuff for Giroud.
The early part of the second half was marred by two penalty claims from the home side. Gervinho executed a one-two with Podolski only to run into Chico Flores, falling like a sack of potatoes but Mark Clattenberg was having none of it. Minutes later, Santi Cazorla tried to con the ref with a fictitious dive but the ref gave deaf ears to Arsenal appeals.
After soaking up much pressure form the home team, Swansea broke again through Rangel whose well-timed shot was saved by Szczesny.
Wenger brought in reinforcements in the forms of Giroud and the Ox for the appalling Gervinho and a somewhat disappointing Podolski. In my opinion, Gervinho was a pain to watch all game long and a substitution was no less than he deserved.
Another talking point of the match arrived when Ki S.Y. sent a back pass to Chico Flores that was intercepted by Giroud, causing the Spanish defender to bring the French forward down. From the FIFA rule book, that was certainly a red card offense but replays showed that Chico Flores had the slightest of touches on the ball but scything Giroud down.
Cazorla had two great chances to hand the lead to the home team but his tame attempts were aimed at the goalie. There was a moment Arsenal fans savored when Tomas Rosicky made his long awaited return to first team action, replacing Jack Wilshere.
Arsenal’s last stint at goal arrived when Vermaelen made one of his trademark forays forward attacking an Oxlade-Chamberlain cross that was headed backwards by Ki. However, the veteran goalie in Swansea’s goal kept the score line intact.
When it seemed as if a draw would have been a fair result for both sides, Michu connected well with Luke Moore, before being one on one with Szczesny. Seeing a player that has scored nine goals prior to that chance against Szczesny, I’d zeroed my mind that the ball was going in and I wasn’t surprised when Michu curled the ball superbly past the goalie to give Swansea a deserved lead.
With Arsenal going gung-ho for an equalizer to spare their blushes, Jenkinson chose the worst time to dally on the ball and was robbed by Dyer. With Per Mertesacker further up the pitch as an emergency striker, Michu dashed into the box and had all the time to pick his spot, which he did, dispatching the ball past a hapless Szczesny to make it 2 – 0 to the visitors.
I as a staunch fan couldn’t bear the shame of leaving the pub wearing my jersey, and as expected, the taunts at me came fast than Usain Bolt’s 100m world record. My Arsenal, a team that has been challenging for honors, is currently languishing in 10th place. What a shame.
As expected, Arsene Wenger softened the defeat in his post-match interview, stating that the quality of his team’s game wasn’t there. I’ve seen Arsenal fuck up a lot in the past, but yesterday’s performance against Swansea should go down as one of the worst performances I’ve seen in a long while.
They beat us in our own passing game and would have humiliated the Gunners had Szczesny not been on good form. This 2 – 0 defeat is really flattering for the Gunners.
Every bad result brings about a wave of negativity and more in-depth reviews of the team but I really don’t understand how this team is really struggling, judging from the quality of the players in the present crop.
Szczesny is a great goalkeeper in the making and he wasn’t really protected by his rearguard, as he was forced to make a couple of saves from a right fullback, which ultimately means that Gibbs didn’t do his job well all game long. I still hold Jenkinson in high regard and his error that led to the last goal will be a learning experience for him.
In midfield, Arsenal failed to tick and I can attribute it to some tired legs out there. The Spanish duo of Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla has played way too many games and it’s high time they get a breather to recharge their batteries.
Francis Coquelin is certainly not the best holding midfielder in the team, but he has the hunger to play games as well as the energy to burn, so I’ll welcome a run-out for the young lad, as the aging Arteta needs some rest. Before Cazorla became a mainstay in the team, Arsenal had a certain Rosicky pulling the strings in the middle and I’ll welcome change right now.
However, I won’t like to see Aaron Ramsey in the first team though. Jack Wilshere can continue doing his thing.
The shame is quite unbearable but the Premier League is out of the corner for the time being. There’s a Champions League group for the taking in midweek, and these lads have to dust themselves up and give their best when they travel to Athens, while hoping for the worst for Schalke as well.
That’s yer lot.
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