Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Swansea 3 Arsenal 2

I don't like Arsenal fans having a knee-jerk reaction and calling for the sacking of Arsene Wenger every time we lose, but the second consecutive Premier League defeat makes you wonder what is wrong with the Club. The loss to Fulham was kind of explained by the heavy legs in the second half, but we were outplayed by the mid-table club once again and this time we were on the back foot most of the time. Manchester United also suffered back-to-back defeats during the festive period. This may be merely a blip and there may be no need of panicking. However, some points from this game made us think about long-term issues.

There should be sufficient qualities in players to beat Swansea. All of Arsenal's starting XI, except for Miquel who is captain of Spain's Under-19 team, were established international players (maybe not Koscielny who earned his first cap only a couple of months ago), including three captains of their respective national teams. However, the team looked quite ordinary in this game, not good enough to call themselves title contenders. We felt the Club seemed to have gone backwards. A couple of seasons ago, we looked like a couple of players short of winning the title, but now we probably need five new players in order to challenge for the title.

Maybe it is time to spend money on tested and proven players rather than investing in young players and nurturing them. Samir Nasri's case has proved Wenger's youth policy no longer works in the real world. By the time young players have started making a name, they just want to move on to where they can get paid more rather than making progress as a footballer under the wings of an excellent educator in the shape of Arsene Wenger. We understand that most football fans admire Arsenal's youth policy and Arsenal fans boast of it as "we don't buy stars, but we make stars", but making stars and selling them will never make Arsenal champions.

The situation that surrounded Henry's departure five years ago worryingly resembles the current situation over RVP's contract talk. Henry was allowed to leave Arsenal for Barcelona as he was approaching  his thirties, while Arsenal were in the transitional phase with no prospect of winning trophies in the next couple of years. To make it worse in RVP's case,  he has no major honours to add to his CV. Since Henry's departure, we have won no trophies and we still have a relatively young team. During the five years, the best of the crop of the young players left Arsenal for Barcelona, while the others, such as Denilson and Senderos, proved that they couldn't make it at Arsenal (the jury is still out for Djourou). We need to build a team which can convince RVP that he can win silverware with.

We discussed the prospect of the January transfer window and concluded with disappointment that Arsenal are unlikely to buy anybody, based on Arsene Wenger's recent comments.

As for the game, Arsenal's performance was below-par, which was not good enough to beat a very good Swansea side. Our passing success rate was 78.7% vis-√†-vis Swansea's 80.4%, according to Sky Sports site. The figure compares unfavourable to our standard, too. We have a lot to learn  from the way Swansea played. Their attacking was very fast from the break with the both wings joining the attack. Swansea are well-known for their passing football, but they don't pass around in or around the box.

On the defensive side, we made very bad mistakes, which cost us three points. What concerns us most is that in the last two games, the sense of panic crept into our defence when they came under pressure and the lack of concentration when we equalized. As stated in the previous post, we thought we had eradicated the defensive frailty. Hopefully, when Vermaelen comes back, he will bring stability and authority back into our defence.

A positive we can take from this game is that we had two superb goals. It has been nearly a month since we scored more than one goal. Also, no other club has scored more than one goal at the Liberty Stadium.

Hopefully, the team will respond to the disappointing result in the next week's game against Manchester United.

Player ratings

Szczeny: 5
His hesitation to come off the line and collect the ball led to Swansea's winning goal, apparently. (We largely missed the build-up to this goal because TV was showing the replays of Walcott's equaliser and we were busy celebrating it.)

Djourou: 6
His defence-splitting pass set up a goal for Walcott. Some good assistance to the central defenders.

Mertesacker: 5
He missed an absolute sitter. When a corner fell in front of him 6 yards out, he only needed to put it on the target, but he shot it wide.

Koscielny: 7
Some of his clearances were questionable, but played relatively well amongst the team's overall poor performance. Good effort to follow on to Rosicky's shot.

Miquel: 6
Made several good runs forward and good crosses. However, he was guilty for Swansea's second goal by being caught out of position.

Ramsey: 4
It is too harsh to blame him for the penalty as it was soft at best and in our point of view, there wasn't much contact. Even neutral observers think it was dubious. He had a poor game. Jeering from the crowd didn't help. He was at fault for Swansea's second goal by allowing the Swansea player to rob him of the ball.

Benayoun: 5
Couldn't fill Arteta's boots. Arteta, who missed the game due to a mild calf strain, would have played a big role in this game by holding the ball better and keeping midfield tighter.

Song: 6
Made little impact. Took a central defensive role after Mertesacker had been replaced in the 76th minute as Arsenal was desperately trying to salvage the points.

Walcott: 7
Scored a brilliant goal. Although it was partly attributed to Swansea's defensive mistake, he took it very well with composure. On the other hand, he also wasted chances. Hopefully, scoring the goal in front of Henry has boosted his confidence.

Arshavin: 6
Made an assist for RVP's goal via a precise pass. He was as lively as on Monday night, but as far as goal-scoring was concerned, there was no improvement. Worked hard, but he sometimes looked lost with the ball. Still, it is good to see him trying to grab a chance to secure his place in the starting XI, capitalising on the absence of Gervinho.

van Persie: 7
He took the goal very well from the almost impossible position, but he missed an easier opportunity, when he faced one-on-one with the Swansea keeper. He could have done better to beat him.

Subs

Rosicky: 7
Replaced Benayoun in the 63rd minute. Made an impact. His powerful shot from the edge of the box forced a good save from Vorm. He has been very effective this season, especially as a sub. Glad we didn't offload him a couple of years when some fans were insisting to do so. He shouldn't be sold.

Henry: 6
Came off the bench in the 63rd minute for Arshavin. Although he didn't have as big an impact as we all hoped, he did well. Some good passes and movements.

Oxlade-Chamberlain: 6
Replaced Mertesacker in the 76th minute in Arsenal's efforts to pour in more attacking power. Played well. He looked strong enough to play in the Premier League.

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