Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Swansea 1 Arsenal 2

Arsenal visited Swansea for the tea-time kick-off on Saturday after their rivals had all dropped points earlier on the day. The two Manchester clubs both had sustained defeats at the hands of the Midland clubs, Aston Villa and West Brom. (After watching Man U beaten by West Brom, we thought our kids didn't do too bad a job mid-week after all). The second-placed Tottenham were held to a 1-1 draw by Chelsea. We really needed to win this game to take advantage of the rivals' slip-ups.

Prior to the day, all the pundits reckoned that this could be a stern test for Arsenal to prove their credentials as title contenders, with many expecting an open game because of the two clubs' similarly attacking style of play and predicting score draws as a result. The Liberty Stadium is always a difficult place for any team to come, but Arsenal managed to seal a win to equal the club-record of 8 consecutive away wins in the Premier League, which was set when they won the 2001/2 title, and extend it to 12 in all competitions. Incidentally, the win marked the 17th anniversary of Wenger taking charge as Arsenal manager amid the speculation that he is to sign the extension of his contract which expires next year.

Wenger fielded unchanged starting XI from the side who started in the 3-1 win against Stoke. To our surprise, Serge Gnabry kept his place after completing 120 minutes and penalty shoot-out midweek. This speaks volumes for the boss' faith in the 18-year-old German, which was rewarded as Gnabry became the second youngest Arsenal player to score in the Premier League after Cesc Fabregas.

The first half saw little of decisive action with no shots on target registered for the either side. Swansea looked more lively than us. However, we were more purposeful in the second half. Arsenal had three good chances after fluent movements and excellent team efforts and scored two goals out of those three clear-cut chances within just 5 minutes, with Ozil's effort denied by the Swansea goalkeeper between the two goals. This is the significant difference in this season's Arsenal team from the past. They finish when they get goal-scoring chances. Their league-top conversion rate of 20% demonstrates it. We are more clinical than before.

This game saw another unusual side of Arsenal's game, with a mere 42% of possession. This is probably because of changes in Arsenal's tactics in the second half, as Aaron Ramsey explained after the match. They let Swansea have the possession of the ball and tried to attack on the break. We are not bothered about the lower possession, but a passing accuracy rate of 78% is well below our standard and needs to be rectified.

It was very disappointing that we failed to keep a clean sheet. In fact, we have only kept one clean sheet so far this season, apart from the Champions League play-off games against Fenerbahce. Fortunately, we managed to hold on to the one-goal lead, but the late goal allowed Swansea to get back into the game and made it very difficult for us. Although the goal was very cleverly taken with Ben Davies' astute run, we have to cut out these kinds of mistakes.

Some say it is too early to say that Arsenal are legitimate title contenders before facing so-called big clubs. (These people obviously don't count Tottenham as a big club. Fair enough). It may be too early to start talking about the title at this stage of the season, but things certainly look bright for us. We are in a great run of form without quality players, like Rosicky, Cazorla, Podolski, Walcott and the Ox. (Oh, and don't forget Abu Diaby.) Gnabry stepped up and took his chance to break into the first team while Theo is sidelined. With these players coming back from injuries, Arsene Wenger will soon have multiple attacking options. Arteta's return is already causing the boss a dilemma with Flamini flourishing in the partnership with Ramsey in the central midfield. Who would have thought Arteta would have trouble getting into the team?

Players rating

Szczesny: 7
Made a few good stops, but his decisions are still questionable. Had a moment of madness which Michu nearly capitalised on in the first half.

Sagna: 7


Mertesacker: 7

Solid, but he should have checked Ben Davies' run and reacted more quickly.

Koscielny: 7

Assured performance. 

Gibbs: 7

Solid defensive display, good going forward as usual.

Flamini: 7
Committed performance.

Ramsey: 8

1 assist, 1 goal and 7 tackles. Overall man of the match performance. Enjoyed a fine goal in front of booing Swansea fans. Good on him!

Ozil: 7

Had a quiet game by his standard. Landed a great chance to open the goal-scoring account after collecting Ramsey's incisive pass only to be denied by the keeper.

Wilshere: 7

There is some criticism about his performance as the left-winger as he let the Swansea right-back exploit our left flank too often. However, he did well, considering the fact that he has been played out of position. His determination to win the ball and make a run led to our second goal. On the other hand, his casual back pass to Gibbs at the edge of the own box nearly allowed Bony to score a goal in the 75th minute. 

Gnabry: 8
Scored his first Premier League goal. Did some good defensive work as well.

Giroud: 7
Set up a goal for Ramsey with a superb back-heel pass. Should have converted a glorious chance at the end of the first half, but shot it wide. Hasn't scored for two games, but worked hard for the team.


Arteta: 6
78th-minute substitute for Gnabry. OK, he made only 6 passes during his short appearance, but his passing success rate of 50% is shocking by the high standard of last season's Premier League top passer.

Monreal: 6
Replaced Ozil in the 88th minute.

Jenkinson: N/A
Stoppage-time substitute for Jack Wilshere. Totally pointless substitution.

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