Arsenal continued their recent fine run of results by recording another victory on Saturday, against Swansea City.
It was a somewhat mixed performance as at times the Gunners were at their best while at others their sloppiness cost them dear and they could have ended up dropping points in a game that was theirs for the taking. Much has been made of the improvements that are evident throughout the side this season, but Arsenal’s ability to needlessly press the self-destruct button remains present and must be a real cause of concern for Arsene Wenger.
The Gunners were in a commanding position twice in the game, but twice gifted their opponents a way back into it and defensively didn’t look as solid as they have done in recent weeks. From an attacking point of view however, Arsenal were outstanding at times. Theo Walcott in particular added to his growing reputation with another standout performance, scoring two goals to move his team into a dominant position. The goals were indicative of the confidence that Walcott now has in his game as they were real poacher’s goals which an out and out centre forward would have been proud of.
The first of Walcott’s goals was especially impressive for his tenacity, desire and commitment. As Hector Bellerin headed a looped ball into the box, across goal, the attack appeared to have fizzled out as the ball fell to the Swansea central defender. However a second of miscommunication between former Arsenal goalkeeper Lucas Fabianski and his defence, presented Walcott with an opportunity to pounce. The defender failed to control the ball and as it looped up, Walcott was onto it like a flash, showing great strength to hold off the defender before steering the ball home.
Walcott’s second also showed great qualities which any out and out striker would be happy to possesses, that of being in the right place at the right time. As Arsenal were preparing to take a corner, Walcott took up his position in front of the goalkeeper and as the ball fell straight to him via a deflection, he calmly controlled it, turned and slotted it home. Unfortunately Walcott wouldn’t go on to secure his hat trick as a combination of bad luck, one shot coming back off the inside of the post and out, and bad finishing on two occasions in the second half, saw him miss out on taking the match ball home.
At two nil up, Arsenal were in a commanding position, but made the fatal mistake of taking their eye off the ball and becoming complacent. Suddenly they started doing party tricks, flicking the ball to each other and attempting to goad their opposition. However there was soon a sting in the tail as Xhaka slipped in front of his own penalty area and was dispossessed by Gylfi Sigurdsson, allowing the former Tottenham man a clear run on goal, before he steered the ball past Cech to reduce the deficit.
Fortunately the Gunners were able to restore their two goal advantage in the second half thanks to a wonderful goal from Mesut Ozil. As Sanchez picked up the ball on the edge of the Swansea penalty area, he spotted the forward run of Ozil and clipped a ball towards him. Ozil was right in front of goal but still had plenty to do as the ball arrived and he unleashed an unstoppable volleyed effort which flew right into the roof of the net to celebrate his 28th birthday in style.
However Arsenal didn’t heed the lesson from the first half and once again having taken a two goal advantage, the Gunners became complacent and allowed Swansea right back into the game. Modou Barrow was a constant thorn in Arsenal’s side throughout the game. The Swansea winger was afforded far too much space as Iwobi failed to offer Monreal adequate defensive cover and as a result was able to speed past the Spaniard on a number of occasions. It was from one such instance that Swansea scored their second, as Barrow’s low ball into the box caught the central defenders napping, with Mustafi failing to pick up Borja Baston in the box and allowing the Mexican the opportunity to reduce the deficit once again.
Minutes later and Arsenal were reduced to ten men as Xhaka received his marching orders for a cynical foul on Barrow. It was a very harsh sending off as Xhaka merely tripped his man on the halfway line to prevent a potential counter attack. Arsenal have such fouls committed against them on a regular basis and the perpetrator has never received anything more than a yellow card, but on this occasion the referee thought differently. Although it made for a nervous finish, it was a foul Xhaka had to make as Swansea would have had a four on two situation with only Koscielny and Mustafi back. Why both full backs had pushed up so high up the pitch with the game in such a critical position is a matter Wenger will have to discuss with his defence.
Fortunately on this occasion Arsenal managed to hold out, despite a great sense of nervousness striking the defence. Swansea were presented with a number of clear chances which they failed to convert and therefore the Gunners were able to secure all three points from a game that they had made far more difficult than needed. Arsenal had caused all their own problems and supporters will be worried that the same old problems are threatening to repeat themselves once again. This game should serve as a wake up call. No side in the Premier League can be taken lightly and should be treated with respect. Failure to do so can result in dropped points which Arsenal cannot afford.