Arsenal v Swansea
Barclays Premier League
Kick off: March 25, 2014 19.45 PM BST
It might be too early to say that the wheels are coming off but it certainly looks that way. After we had spent 18 weeks on top, we have allowed ourselves a dreadful streak of poor performances and our place for Champions’ League qualification may be in danger.
Arsene Wenger didn’t make too many changes to the team that lost 6:0 at Stamford Bridge. The injured Koscielny was replaced by Thomas Vermaelen and Lukas Podolski was dropped to the bench in favour of Mathieu Flamini. Wenger obviously planned to the use Flamini-Arteta axis that has worked well at home this season in order to get more solidity. The visitors – who haven’t won a league match since 8th February – started with both Wilfried Bony and Michu. Gooners expected a response from their favourite team.
We started slowly with a rasping shot from Oxlade-Chamberlain as the best thing we could come up with early on. In the 11th minute, we received a cold shower. Neil Taylor was totally by himself on our right flank and had all the time in the world to make a cross. He did and his centre was met by Wilfried Bony who won the aerial duel against Vermaelen. Szczesny couldn’t do much about it – it was 1:0 for the Swans.
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What was even worse than going behind, we couldn’t find a way to create an equalizer or anything that would make the visitors uncomfortable. Mertesacker’s header that hit the side-netting was the closest thing to equalizer for Arsenal in the earlier part of the first half. The visitors could have doubled their lead soon after that when they had a 4-on-2 counter-attack but luckily for us they didn’t know how to use it. On the other side of the pitch, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sagna saw their attempts go wide. Cazorla’s fine effort forced a save from Vorm.
We entered the second half with the same eleven but it didn’t achieve much. Arsene Wenger sent Lukas Podolski on the pitch after an hour to replace Oxlade-Chamberlain. The German had been on the pitch for 13 minutes before Kieran Gibbs made a burst down the left flank and sent a low cross to Podolski. Arsenal’s best finisher sent it home. In the very next attack, Swansea lost the ball, Podolski roamed down the left flank and sent a low cross into the box. Olivier Giroud followed the ball cleverly and scored one of his trade-mark first-touch goals. The come-back was completed, all that remained was to keep it calm and take three important points, especially given that Everton and Manchester City were winning in their visits to St James Park and Old Trafford. In order to do that, Arsene Wenger brought in Kim Kallstrom and Yaya Sanogo. The former has already shown that he has very decent passing abilities.
Unfortunately, being an Arsenal fan means you must suffer a lot. Swansea had one of their last attacks that ended with a clever ball into the box. Britton made a burst but it seemed like he wouldn’t be able to control the ball. It went off Mertesacker to Szczesny’s leg and deflected off Flamini’s leg and went in. It was the 90th minute and another psychological blow for our team. It could have been worse but Lee Probert signaled the final whistle even though Jonathan de Guzman was on a counter-attack and close to coming into our box. We were literally saved by the bell and the Swans have every right to feel pissed about it.
Given that Everton won at St James Park (3:0) the gap between us and Toffees is getting narrower and narrower. Our next opponents are Manchester City and Koscielny, Wilshere, Ramsey and Özil will be out for that game too. We might have a very nasty six-pointer at Goodison Park in two weeks.
It’s hard to say anything after this kind of match. We have been destroyed by the injuries this season but even today’s team should have had enough quality to beat Swansea. For most of the time we looked poor, slow, lackluster and toothless. However, had our manager listened to our voices and strengthened our team with more players than just one, we wouldn’t have had this kind of problems. We were top of the league after 19 matches with 42 points but we have won just 20 points out of a possible 36 in the second half of the season. I have deja vu from 2010-11 – we had been in a serious title race before we suffered a meltdown in February and March. We ended fourth in the end and lost the Carling Cup Final against Birmingham City. Let’s hope I’m wrong regarding the cup loss.
on the game…
The result is very disappointing but the spirit we put in and the effort we put in was great and we have to take it on the chin. We made the most difficult [part] by coming back to 2-1 and after that you could see that maybe we were too focused to keep the result and maybe too conservative because of confidence level had been affected certainly by Saturday. We just wanted to win the game without pushing anymore forward and a mistake happened unfortunately and it created a result we didn’t want. But overall I have to give credit to the fighting spirit and the desire we put into that game.
on Swansea’s second goal…
Yes. I think it was a foul for us. I don’t understand this decision but it doesn’t mean we have to concede a goal behind that. But at the moment this kind of decisions don’t go for us but we still could have stopped the goal from happening.
on when the referee blew up…
I was unhappy as well. For me it was no goal. I think Thomas Vermaelen could have got the ball. You watch it again you will see that Thomas Vermaelen had a very good chance to get the ball. When the final whistle happened.
on De Guzman going clean through…
Yeah but the ball went wide and Vermaelen was coming back.
on Saturday’s result affecting the players…
It affects us a lot because it’s of course a big disappointment. But we want to go back to focus on the next game and this result tonight hurts us a lot. Sometimes when you lose big like we did at Chelsea, the next game most of the time you get a draw. The way it happened of course is more frustrating because we were 2-1 up with two minutes to go and at home we have been quite solid but I think we made a mistake on the second goal and it was not needed.
on the team’s title chances…
I think at the moment it is not the biggest worry we have. We have to be realistic a little bout and try to come back a bit in the next game. We have to look behind us and of course try to look in front of us.
on securing a top-four place…
Everton won, so we have to focus and prepare well for the next game. It will be open until the end but you can still have surprises as well. Man City had a good result tonight, they look a bit unstoppable. They are favourites as they have two games in hand, them and Chelsea are favourites now for the title. We have not too much room to come back into it, but we have to get some players back. It is difficult to fight with half the team out.
on restoring some belief…
We have to do as well as we can and accept our position at the end of the season. But at the moment [our focus] is to recover from a high disappointment and recover for the next game. It is a huge game.
on Ozil, Ramsey, Wilshere and Koscielny…
None of them are close to coming back. Koscielny is out for a while. After that Ozil, I don’t know but at least two or three weeks. Ramsey is perhaps the closest. He is two weeks maybe.
on believing in the team…
We live at the moment in a permanent assessment from everybody and definite judgement always. We have to let people judge, assess and criticise – we find plenty of people who can do that, I do not worry about that too much. I just do my job and focus on the next game, and I will let people assess and judge. They know much better than I do, so I will leave them the job.
on giving under-21 players a chance…
When you go through a difficult period like that, you need a bit of experience. To put young players under massive pressure at the moment like we are… It is easier said than done. At the moment, I feel that the experienced players did very well and we need that as well in a situation like that.
Here are some of the top tweets from today’s game:gunnerblog @gunnerblog
“Pretty sure I’ve seen this episode of ‘Premiership Years’ before.”arseblog @arseblog
“Me, now – http://i.imgur.com/vGCfmSX.gif”John Cross @johncrossmirror
“Shame on the hate-filled Arsenal fans spouting abuse at Wenger. Whether you want him to go or stay, the least Wenger deserves is respect.”GeoffArsenal @GeoffArsenal
“On a positive note, Kallstrom looked alright :-)”
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Sagna Mertesacker Vermaelen (c) Gibbs
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