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Arsenal 2 Swansea 2: The Gunners Crumble at the Death

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Everyone needed a response from the horrid affair on Saturday. As expected, the manager shaked things up in the starting line up and handed starts to Thomas Vermaelen and Mathieu Flamini.

Arsenal were the quickest our of the blocks as Mikel Arteta’s cross to Olivier Giroud was blocked by Ashley Williams. The resulting ball fell to the Ox’s path and he lashed a volley that was saved by Michel Vorm. Against the run of play, Swansea grabbed the lead when Neil Taylor lofted in a cross for Wilfried Bony that jumped ahead of Vermaelen to head the ball home with Szczesny rooted to the spot.

Not the start Arsenal had envisaged.

Tomas Rosicky and Santi Cazorla attempted one-two passes to get in behind the defence but Rosicky chose to pass instead of attempting a shot at goal. Typical Arsenal. The resulting corner was headed to the side netting by Per Mertesacker.

After Giroud had created a chance for himself that was blocked, Swansea was almost two goals to the good when they instigated a counter attack that put Arsenal on the back foot but the final shot was blocked by Cazorla.

After some tame attempts from the Ox and Sagna, Cazorla evaded a couple of markers before firing a weak shot at Vorm. Arsene Wenger had seen enough from the Ox and replaced him with Podolski that went on to have a stormer. The German was directed involved in Arsenal’s equaliser as he latched on to Gibbs’ superb cross to side foot the ball home.

While the Gunners were basking in the euphoria of getting a vital equaliser, it took Podolski just 66 seconds to send an inch-perfect cross into the danger area that was slammed home by the much maligned Giroud. That was his 19th for the season and it was a good that sent the Emirates into raptures.

At that point in time, I’d already thought of my headlines for today’s post and it was going to have some Podolski splattered all over it.

There was time to get Kim Kardashian Kallstrom his long awaited debut and he came in for a clearly exhausted Rosicky. Swansea brought the warning signs when Bony’s header went straight to Szczesny’s direction and Rangel was having a lot of free space on his side but he failed to create a good chance.

Right at the death, Wenger brought on Sanogo for Giroud with the aim of winning down the clock to what would have been a hard – fought victory but at the end, disaster struck…

Leon Britton was allowed to run at the Arsenal defence and he attempted a one-two with an unmarked Rangel. With the diminutive midfielder bearing down on goal, I had feared the worst as he went down but it got worse as Szczesny kicked the ball aimlessly and it ricocheted off Flamini into the net.

That was an utterly frustrating moment and the fact that Everton whooped Newcastle puts them in contention for a fourth place finish and if the Gunners continue to falter like this, I fear for the worst.

It’s only normal for bloggers, journos, pundits and fans alike to dwell on some performances after a disappointing result but I must say that it was painful watching Bacary Sagna yesterday. A player that was renowned for his consistency in the yesteryear, he looked out of sorts and lacked confidence when he received the ball. It’s in moments like this that you would see why the Gunners have taken such a stance on his contract situation and he certainly didn’t play like someone that deserved £100,000 per week.

Another player that failed to impress yesterday was Arteta as age is slowly creeping in on the midfielder. With Flamini stationed in the anchor midfield role, Arteta played the box to box role and he was largely disappointing.

It just a shame seeing out season crumble at the business end and at this point in time, qualifying for the Champions League and a FA Cup win will be ‘good enough’ to add some gloss to what is turning into a difficult campaign.

Sayonara..

Swansea Preview: Team News, Injury Updates and Predicted Lineups

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After the debacle at Stamford Bridge, the Gunners have a chance of setting things right against a struggling Swansea side in front of their home fans. The club had set a media lockdown in the wake of their embarrassment in West London but the vice – captain, Mikel Arteta, has come out from his shell to share his thoughts,

“It hurts deeply inside. It’s embarrassing to be on a football pitch in that situation. I promise everyone that we have that hunger to put it right. On Tuesday we have an opportunity again at home and we just need to bounce back.”

Arteta alongside his teammates were piss poor to say the least and watching them get tossed around the pitch was a horrific sight. However, the game against Swansea offers a perfect platform to put that defeat behind them and see if the Gunners can resurrect their dying title challenge. A lot of things can happen in eight games but the Gunners need to win their matches and hope for favors elsewhere.

Wenger had also voiced his opinions on the disaster, labelling it as an ‘accident’,

“An accident has happened, that doesn’t mean that you’re not a good driver. It just means that we have played about 40 games this season and it’s not what happened on Saturday that reflects the quality of this team.”

In Wenger and the team’s defense, there have been a lot of positives this season. The extended contracts of key playing personnel as well as good great performances on the pitch. This is the same side that has a date with destiny when they take on a Wigan Athletic side in the FA Cup semifinal and there’s still a chance that they can go all the way in the Premier League.

The Gunners also appealed to the FA in regard to Andre Marriner’s moment of refereeing madness and the suspension to Kieran Gibbs has been rescinded. However, the Ox might be suspended if the FA decides to transfer the punishment to him. Marriner was tipped to be demoted to the Championship for his horrid performance but I’ve been notified that he’s going to officiate the Newcastle game.

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For the stats lovers, Arsenal have won five of just nine league meetings with Swansea City with three wins in the last three games against Swansea in league and cup. (PL2, FAC1).

Swansea won on their last trip to north London in December 2012, Michu scoring twice in a 2-0 win and there have been eight goals scored in the last 10 minutes of the last five meetings in all competitions between Arsenal and Swansea.

Arsene Wenger’s side have won all three of their games against the top flight’s Welsh clubs in the Premier League so far this season and the Gunners have not conceded a first-half goal in any of their last 11 Premier League matches at the Emirates.

However, the Gunners are in a poor run of form, winning just three of their last eight Premier League games (W3 D2 L3). Swansea on the other hand, have lost seven of 11 league games since the turn of the year (W2 D2).

Their floodgates open easily as well, as Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham have conceded more goals in the Premier League than Swansea this season.

To team news, Laurent Koscielny’s calf injury rules him out of tonight’s encounter, so he’s odds on to be replaced by the club captain, Thomas Vermaelen. I’d also expect to see Mathieu Flamini coming into the heart of the midfield and with Olivier Giroud struggling for form, he might be replaced by Yahaya Sanogo.

Arsenal needs to win this game to restore some confidence ahead of a mightily important clash against Manchester City this weekend.

Let’s hope for a better response tonight.

Sayonara

Swansea 1 Arsenal 2: The Ramsey Juggernaut Remains Unstoppable

This Welsh Dragon is on Fire

Liberty Stadium (Premier League)

Swansea – Davies 82′; Arsenal – Gnabry 58′, Ramsey 62′

In a rather surprising weekend of Premier League football that started with Tottenham and Chelsea sharing the spoils of an intense London derby, the Manchester clubs rolled over against opposition you would expect them to steamroll past, which meant that Arsenal had the chance to go back to the summit of the table with a win against an in-form Swansea side in Wales.

Canas and Jonjo Shelvey tried to draw first blood with tame efforts and Arsenal had efforts from Per Mertesacker and Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey almost put his team in a rather precarious situation when his heavy back pass which wasn’t controlled adequately by Wojciech Szczesny and with Miguel Michu charging down at the goalie like a raging bull, the Pole tried to attempt a dribble but the ball was blocked and went beyond the goal line for a goal kick.

There was an injury concern for Giroud but a late surge from Serge Gnabry saw the youngster take on all comers before sending Olivier Giroud through but the striker’s shot was wide off the mark.

The second half began with a weak Gnabry shot from a Mesut Ozil pass but Gnabry wasn’t going to be denied a second time after some intricate passing play between Giroud, Ozil and Ramsey saw the young German through on goal and he drilled his effort past Michel Vorm to score his first goal for the Gunners.

Arsenal launched a counter attack and Ramsey covered a lot of ground with the ball before threading a perfect through ball to Ozil. The German schemer had all the time in the world to pick his spot but his shot was straight at Vorm which was parried away for a corner kick.

Arsenal doubled their money shortly afterwards, when Ramsey teed up Wilshere that did well to win a challenge before feeding Giroud. The Frenchman wasted no time in executing a neat one-two with Wilshere, then he fashioned a chance for Ramsey that had a touch before slamming the roof of the net with a piledriver.

In the space of four minutes, the Gunners were two up and the fans in the away stand of the Liberty Stadium made their voices heard, as the “Aaron Ramsey, he scores when he wants” chants reverberated around the stadium.

Nathan Dyer was afforded a chance at goal and fired a rasping shot to Szczesny’s far post but the Pole made a great save. Wilshere almost gifted Swansea a chance back into the game when he shockingly fed Wilfried Bony with a chance but the Ivorian’s shot was blocked by Szczesny on his near post. The keeper voiced his frustrations on Wilshere after making the save.

Wenger removed a clearly jaded Gnabry for Mikel Arteta to add some steel into the midfield. The Gunners had another chance to go three up but Mertesacker nodded Ozil’s free kick wide. Late on, Ben Davies gave a pass to Bony and continued his run but the Ivorian forward stunned Arsenal’s defense with a brilliant over the top pass that was finished aplomb by Davies, to give a nervy end to the game.

The Swansea players and fans went berserk when Bacary Sagna fired his clearance into Mathieu Flamini’s hands but the ref was having none of it, as he didn’t deem it enough to warrant a penalty for the home side. The manager made two more defensive substitutions as Nacho Monreal and Carl Jenkinson came on for Ozil and Wilshere.

The Gunners held on to another famous win to continue their impressive away run of consecutive victories to 12 games. The victory also sent them to the summit of the log table.

PLAYER RATINGS

Szczesny (8) had a solid game and dominated his area by plucking out a lot of lofted balls into his box.

Sagna (7) balanced his attacking and defensive play superbly.

Gibbs (7) didn’t threaten much offensively but he was solid at the back.

Koscielny (9) was a colossus at the back, making interception after interception, ensuring that Michu had a bad day in the office.

Mertesacker (7) had a good game but his lack of athleticism was exposed as it took him an age to turn when Bony’s ball went over his head.

Flamini (8) continued his dirty work in midfield and got a booking for his troubles. He’s taking his “unfinished business” rather seriously.

Ramsey (10) was on fire yet again, battling extremely hard for his team, supplying an assist and scoring what proved to be the match winner. MOTM

Ozil (6) was a bit overwhelmed by the game and would be utterly disappointed for the clear-cut chance he missed.

Gnabry (8) put up a wonderful shift after playing 120 minutes of football in midweek. That goal must have done wonders to his confidence.

Wilshere (7) was industrious in midfield and battled hard for his team.

Giroud (6) bar his assist to Ramsey, he struggled a lot in the game and looked a bit off the pace. Maybe he’s fatigued.

Arteta (7) added solidity to the midfield after replacing Gnabry.

Monreal and Jenkinson (N/A)

Arsene Wenger celebrated his 17th anniversary with the club win three massive points that has sent him clear of Tottenham. He was pleased with the performances of his lads and with some inured players returning, all focus will be fixed on the Champions League encounter against high-flying Napoli on Independence Day.

It’s quite lonely at the top, I must say. But I’m loving it. :D

Sayonara.

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Swansea vs. Arsenal Preview: Can the Impressive Away Form Continue?

 

6104262 michu Arsenal issued ‘hands off’ warning for their pursuit of Swanseas Michu

Can Arsenal keep him at bay?

The last time both teams played competitive football, they both featured weak squads in the Capital One Cup. Arsene Wenger fielded a special blend of experience and youth but he still had to rely on the lottery of penalties to seal an enticing fourth round fixture against Chelsea. Swansea on the other hand, weren’t so lucky with their overhauled squad, as they crashed out of the competition following a 3-1 surprise defeat to Birmingham City.

In the Premier League, Swansea is currently on ninth place after five games, and they are level on points with Manchester United, Hull, Stoke and Newcastle. To be fair with the Swans, they have already faced Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool this season, losing to the first two clubs in the aforementioned list but they salvaged a draw against Liverpool in their last home game, with Jonjo Shelvey grabbing the headlines for more reasons than one.

Going into this weekend, they had the best pass completion rate in the Premier League this season (87.3%) and with victories over West Brom and Crystal Palace, Michael Laudrup’s side are finding their feet and Arsenal has to be mindful about the fact that they have scored the earliest goals this season with Shelvey scoring Liverpool after 87 seconds and Miguel Michu scoring Palace after 80 seconds.

Swansea’s greatest threat against the Gunners will be the man that scored three goals in three games against them last season, Michu. Following his impressive start to his Premier League career last season, Michu has already scored two goals and he has had his fair share of assists as well, making him a creative force for Swansea. Michu has created 12 goalscoring chances this season already and he has the most shots (18) from open play for Swansea.

Arsenal on the other hand, would hinge their hopes on the goalscoring forms of Olivier Giroud and the Welsh Dragon that’s returning home, Aaron Ramsey. The midfielder has a little thigh injury but the manager has confirmed that he will be fit for the game. Ramsey has made 387 passes this season with a pass completion percentage of 89 percent. He also leads the club’s goalscoring charts with seven goals in eight games, which is hugely impressive. Last season, Aaron Ramsey scored one goal from 46 shots in the league. In 2013-14 he has so far scored three league goals from 12 shots and has seven goals in all competitions.

To injuries, Swansea are sweating over the fitness of their captain, Ashley Williams, as he’s currently nursing an ankle injury and he remains doubtful for the game. However, they will be without winger Pablo Hernandez, that is still out with a hamstring injury. At Arsenal, the usual suspects Arsenal: Rosicky (hamstring), Sanogo (back), Cazorla (ankle), Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee), Podolski (hamstring), Walcott (abdomen) and Diaby (knee) are still out, but the Czech maestro could be in line for a timely return against Napoli.

To team news, I expect Wojciech Szczesny to return in goal with his usual defensive rearguard in front of him, as Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna would man the fullback positions while Laurent Koscielny would replace Thomas Vermaelen to play alongside the ever-present Per Mertesacker.

Arsene Wenger will have some problems in midfield as the absence of Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and the Ox will ensure that he has to play one of his versatile midfielders out of position on the right wing. Serge Gnabry played when Walcott pulled out of the Stoke game but his performance in midweek has clearly shown that he’s not ready to make that step up required of him.

With this in mind, Wenger would probably start Mikel Arteta and the fit-again Mathieu Flamini in the middle of the pack, while moving Aaron Ramsey to the creative hub of the team. With Ramsey’s confidence in front of goal, he certainly wouldn’t mind playing here. This would mean that Jack Wilshere could start on the right while Mesut Ozil would man the left flank. Ozil has created more chances (10) in two Premier League games than any Manchester United player has done all season. Giroud would lead the line.

I expect both lineups to look like this,

The Gunners are looking to extend their club record of consecutive away wins to 12 and they have have lost only two of their last 21 Premier League games. (W16, D3, L2).

The million pound question would be – can the impressive away form continue?

Sayonara.

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Swansea 2 Arsenal 2: Character and Mental Strength Shadowed by Frustration

Arsenal began this campaign with a chance of ending the much talked-about trophy drought as football offered the Gunners four competitions to challenge on all fronts.

20 games into the Premier League, Arsenal is nowhere near contention for Premier League honors this season, so focus was firmly shifted elsewhere with the cup competitions becoming a priority.

After two pulsating Capital One fixtures where the Gunners smashed in six past Coventry and seven past Reading, a humiliating penalty shootout loss to Bradford City in the quarterfinals caused a stir in the football world, and as expected, the fans asked for Arsene Wenger’s head on a plate.

After finishing Group B as runners-up, Arsenal has braced themselves for a crunch fixture with European juggernauts, Bayern Munich, but yesterday’s fixture against Swansea came in a competition that was labeled as Arsenal’s most realistic chance of winning silverware this season, the FA Cup.

After a blistering run of four league wins in a row, the Gunners played so poorly against Southampton, causing the manager to make some changes ahead of yesterday’s clash with Swansea. Per Mertesacker returned to make his 50th Arsenal appearance in Thomas Vermaelen’s stead, Olivier Giroud replaced the Ox with Theo Walcott drifting back to the right and sadly, Aaron Ramsey got the nod ahead of Lukas Podolski.

https://twitter.com/goonerdaily/status/287991622044643329

The Welshman was under some stick from the home crowd due to his ties with his previous club, Cardiff but Ramsey went on to put up another questionable performance. To be honest, I really feel sorry for Ramsey and with each passing game, he continues to deteriorate.

He used to be a bright star in the making, now he’s more or less a jack-of-all-trades but master of none.

The Welshman is best suited for a role in central midfield but his performances and form can’t allow him to displace the fatigued Santi Cazorla and the spirited Jack Wilshere. Instead, Wenger continues to deploy him in both flanks where he continues to struggle before an inevitable substitution.

Swansea started the game with a measure of confidence, as they were victorious against the Gunners in their last two outings. After some intricate passing play in midfield, the Welsh outfit got in behind Kieran Gibbs but the teasing cross into the box was duly intercepted by Bacary Sagna. The French defender went on to have a somewhat frustrating evening.

Ex-Gunner, Kyle Bartley, replaced skipper, Ashley Williams, in the heart of Swansea’s defense and he went on to have a good game by his standards. He almost went as far as rattling the cross bar for his new team. The defender’s distribution was pretty decent and he caused Arsenal some problems when he lofted an over-the-top ball for Danny Graham that stung Wojciech Szczesny’s palms with a shot.

Arsenal responded with a promising attack where Walcott, Giroud and Wilshere worked in tandem to create a chance for the pacy English forward but his attempted shot was blocked by Chico Flores.

Arsenal continued to penetrate through the left to create a great chance for Ramsey but he chose to dally on the ball and that good chance went begging. When a simple left-footed would have at least forced Michel Vorm to make a save, Ramsey chose to bring it to his right, allowing the Swansea defense to clear the danger.

Classic Aaron Ramsey. Always trying to over-complicate the simplest of things.

The Gunners continued to pose threats through the left and within moments, a Gibbs cutback was sent to the stands by Santi Cazorla. After an infringement from Ramsey, Jonathan de Guzman swung in a cross that was attacked by Bartley but luckily for Szczesny, the cross bar spared his blushes.

The first half was a somewhat dull and cautious affair but the Gunners played with more urgency in the second half, as they knew that with more determination, the game was theirs for the taking. Unlike the Gunners that needed to get something out of the game, Swansea had half an eye on their Capital One semifinal clash with Chelsea.

It’s took Chelsea’s debutant, Demba Ba, 65 minutes to score his first two goals for Chelsea, and it took Fernando Torres 30 games.

Arsenal drew first blood in the second half when Giroud’s sliced shot was blocked by Vorm. There was a moment of controversy when Aaron Ramsey tripped in the box and there were appeals for a penalty, but Howard Webb was having none of it.

Giroud continued to threaten the Swansea rearguard and showed great technique to blast a Gibbs’ cross straight at Vorm but he was in some discomfort in the follow up, as he received a stamp on his knee by Chico Flores.

Swansea gaffer, Brian Laudrup, sensed that the Gunners were on the ascendancy so he summoned his Spanish contingent of Pablo Hernandez and the scourge of Arsenal, Miguel Michu, to replace Wayne Routledge and de Guzman.

Within moments of his introduction, Michu gracefully received a rash clearance from Laurent Koscielny before chipping the ball over Mertesacker with consummate ease. With the attacking midfielder having it all to do with intense pressure from Sagna, he still managed to place the ball past Szczesny to make it 1-0.

Oh na na, what’s my name?

The goal served up as a wake-up call for the Gunners and it became one-way traffic as the game progressed. Ramsey showed off some good footwork to swing a cross for Giroud but the Frenchman glanced his header wide. Wilshere also executed a neat one-two with Giroud but he flashed his shot wide.

Wenger had sensed that Swansea’s Achilles Foot was their right hand side as the Gunners created chance after chance from that position with Kieran Gibbs at the thick of things, so he brought on Lukas Podolski to add his verve from the left.

Eight minutes after Podolski’s introduction, Walcott swung in a rather dismal corner that was headed back into the fray by Sagna on the far post. Koscielny showed great determination to win the ball before firing it to Podolski’s path and the rest they say was history.

Podolski showing off his great technique to equalize for the Gunners

As Arsenal fans reveled in their team’s deserved comeback, Gibbs and Giroud combined superbly to send the fans into raptures with a quick-fire second goal with a strike worthy of being a match winner.

Gibbs cushioned a pass to Giroud and made a diagonal run into the six-yard box before receiving Giroud’s peach of an assist to blast the ball past Vorm in goal.

What a way to score your first goal of the campaign!!!

After going down to a team that had defeated the Gunners for two games in a row, Arsene Wenger’s Army showed great mental strength to overcome a deficit to get a well-deserved lead. With the immense quality present in Arsenal’s current crop of players, if and only if they played with the same determination all season long, they won’t be languishing in sixth place in the league.

The Gunners were seven minutes away from a Fourth Round tie with Brighton and Hove Albion, if only they held on. Only if. :(

I had hoped for the boss to bring on Francis Coquelin or even Thomas Vermaelen to sure up things at the back but the team had lapses in concentration, allowing Ki Seug-Yeung to fire a shot straight at Szczesny. With three minutes of regulation time left, Swansea pushed forward for that all-important equalizer and got it when Ki teed up an unmarked Danny Graham that wasted no time in smashing the roof of the net.

Where was the marking?

That late goal epitomized what has gone wrong with the Gunners throughout the season. In a game where high concentration levels were key, the Gunners switched off in their box, allowing Graham a clear-cut chance at goal, which he took with open arms. Szczesny’s positioning was suspect as well, as he was quick to hit the deck instead of standing his ground.

When the fourth official raised his board to show that both teams had only five more minutes left, both teams went for the kill and it would have been a fairy-tale ending for the Gunners if Koscielny’s header wasn’t parried by Vorm. The defender showed great reaction to make a rebound but his shot went over the bar.

Right at the death, Swansea almost delivered a sucker punch when Dwight Tiendalli almost caught Szczesny off guard with a cross-turned-shot that hit the side netting.

The sound of Howard Webb’s whistle ensured that both sides would lock horns again next week with a place in the Fourth Round up for grabs.

In Wenger’s post-match interview, he spoke about how his team showed great character but he was very frustrated with the late equalizer. He also spoke about the Ramsey penalty incident, the congested fixture schedule and Kyle Bartley.

Arsenal is in for a very tough January with Premier League fixtures against Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool around the corner. There’s also the issue of the FA Cup replay against Swansea and a potential Fourth Round with Brighton and Hove Albion, should they succeed.

This will be a very testing period for the Gunners and their destiny will be reshaped at the end of this month.

Till then,

Sayonara.

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