Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Arsenal 0 Swansea 2

Santi Cazorla said that Arsenal need to be more consistent, but it appears to us that they have been consistently performing below par since their elating defeat of West Ham, bar the north London derby. We have been through bad patches a number of times over the recent years and we found them just a blip rather than a crisis afterwards, but this time we feel a problem may lie deeper than those. Trying the same thing week in week out and just hoping for a better outcome may not be an option this time around.

A draw with Aston Villa was disappointing, but the condition may be to blame for Arsenal's lacklustre performance and poor passing. A draw at Goodison Park seems to be a good point earned after the title holder, Manchester City, only drew on their home soil against a good Everton side. Given the similar style of play between the two teams, journalists were quick to conclude that Swansea beat Arsenal in their passing game, but this is not exactly true.

Swansea passed well and retained ball well in the first half as the stats show with a 54.5 % possession, but Arsenal started well in the second half and was in ascendancy for a long period. Their second-half and overall possession rates of 59.6% and 52.6%, respectively, suggest a different story to what the media believe (one article claimed that the home side's possession was 40%). What won the game for Swansea was not their passing game, but a quick break. When the game looked destined for a goalless draw, Swansea took advantage of the home side's mistakes and broke quickly. Fortunately for them, Michu's finish was more clinical than ours.

Some question the quality of players, but we think that's not the case. On paper, we have a good team, which consists of international players, apart from Arteta, who unfortunately happens to be a Spanish midfielder. The problem is that they haven't played to full potential. Fatigue can be one of the factors and if so, it should be solved before this weekend as the majority of key players are rested from the midweek Champions League match. However, something more drastic may be required to start getting results.

The other problem is that Arsenal haven't played well as a team. Arsenal's attack is not clicking. In this game, when they didn't have Giroud on the pitch, they were putting high crosses in. Two good chances in the first half came from crosses, which were wasted on Gervinho. When the 6 ft 3 in striker came on, Arsenal were in the middle of their usual passing game and crosses had already stopped coming in. There was no movement in the box, with nobody trying to drag Swansea defenders out of shape. They were static.

We think it is time to move away from Arsenal brand of football, beautiful passing game. First of all, we are not playing it very well at the moment. It only works when all the players are able to deliver quick and crisp passes. Secondly, our new signings have different traits to Arsenal's style. Giroud has found his strength in the air (apparently, only one of his 21 goals last season for Montpellier was header). Podolski is a direct player. Cazorla is a dribbler rather than a passer like Fabreagas, as Jack Wilshere pointed out. They are all quality players, if not world class. The traditional Arsenal style of play does not get the best out of these players.

Arsenal need to find a solution quickly, even if it is only temporary. There are so many game which could make a difference to our position in the Premier League table between now and the January transfer window that we cannot afford to waste them. Seeking a solution in the January transfer window could be too late. Our top priority is to get the result and it has to start this weekend.

Player ratings

Szczesny: 8
Arguably our best player. His double save was stunning. Had it not been for him, the scoreline could have been embarrassing. It is good to see our No. 1 organising the wall, etc. for set-pieces. We have really missed his authority in the box during his spell on the sidelines. He is not a perfect keeper yet, but given his age, he has a massive potential.

Jenkinson: 7
He had a good game until the second-half injury time, when his indecisiveness led to Swansea's second goal. Otherwise, he looked more than a capable deputy for Sagna, who had a poor game against Everton. Made good crosses.

Mertesacker: 6
A bit sluggish at times.

Vermaelen: 7
He started to find form after a decent game against Everton. Made a crucial challenge. Even leading the attack at one time.

Gibbs: 6
His positioning sense seemed to have gone backwards after the injury. He was often dragged to the middle and caught out of position.

Cazorla: 8
He was lively and our major threat at the beginning of the second half. All meaningful goal attempts seemed to have come from him.

Arteta: 6
He hasn't been playing very well for the last few weeks. Perhaps, adapting to his new role as a deep-lying midfielder started taking its toll? He has been giving away cheap fouls recently.

Wilshere: 7
He was clearly not fully fit, but did OK.

Walcott: 5
His corners were poor.

Gervinho: 5

Podolski: 6
We want to see him more in the central striker role. Replaced in the 67th minute. We felt that Walcott should have been replaced instead of him, but later Wenger admitted that Walcott and Podolski missed out on the Olympiakos game due to injury, so a fitness issue might have been behind the substitution.


Giroud: 6
One of the 67th-minute double substitutions to replace Podolski and Gervinho. Got involved in attack immediately after he came on and had a decent shout for a free-kick on the edge of the area.

Oxlaide-Chamberlain: 6
The other one of the 67th-minute double substitutions to replace Podolski and Gervinho.

Rosicky: 6
Replaced Jack Wilshere in the 80th minute to provide a creative spark to Arsenal's attack. First apperance this season after recovering from a tendon problem. He should have done better at least to deter Michu from having a shot in injury time.

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