After the Pyrrhic victory at Munich that restored the pride of the Gunners, we were expecting a match against a tough rival Swansea that was potentially full of traps: complacency, Laudrup, Michu, lack of consistency… Yes, there was a lot of stuff an average Arsenal fan had in mind before the match.
Given that we haven’t been in action in the Premiership for two weeks due to Everton’s clash against Wigan in FA Cup, some things have changed since our defeat to Spuds in the North London Derby. The Spuds lost to Liverpool despite being 2:1 up which opened space for us to reduce the gap to 4 points. The only problem was that we were supposed to beat a solid team that was rewarded for their fine season with a trophy in the Capital One Cup.
Arsene Wenger made a few changes to the side that won at Munich. Nacho Monreal returned to the back four in place of Kieran Gibbs, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was on the left wing for Cazorla who moved to the midfield to take the place of Tomas Rosicky. Abou Diaby returned to the starting 11 instead of Aaron Ramsey who dropped to the bench. He was joined by captain Thomas Vermaelen and No.1 goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny in the dugout.
We didn’t have to wait too long to see our first chance. It was the 5th minute when Oxlade-Chamberlain went past Angel Rangel and released a shot but it cannoned of the crossbar. The Swansea right full-back was then involved in the first dangerous situation on the other side of the pitch. Ki found him with a through ball and Monreal played him onside. Luckily, Koscielny’s pressure forced Rangel to send the ball wide. Only a few minutes later, Jenkinson sent a pass just outside the box to Arteta but the ball never reached our captain. De Guzman cut the pass and sent the ball to Michu in the box. The Spaniard who scored a brace in the reverse fixture made a fine move to lose Mertesacker only to send the ball wide much to the visiting fans relief.
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It was our turn to make problems for the hosts again and it was Cazorla who theatened. The little Spaniard took the ball on the chest and fired the volley that was saved by Vorm. Michu was visible again – he fired a low shot to the right post of Fabianski’s goal but the Polish goalkeeper made a brilliant save despite the fact he didn’t know Michu was offside.
After a very decent combination between Cazorla and Oxlade-Chamberlain, the latter tried a long shot but it shaved the crossbar before going out.
In the second half, it was visible that our determination was not enough to win this game. We were trying to make chances none were eventuating. The Swans were more dangerous with Michu and Pablo Hernandez finding space to shoot. Wenger decided to take hold of the fixture by introducing Ramsey and Gervinho replacing Diaby and Oxlade-Chamberlain. It was the Ivorian winger that had a chance to score after one minute on the pitch. Gervinho took the ball on the left wing and cut inside the box but his final pass wasn’t good enough to reach Cazorla.
And then, we scored. Cazorla wreaked havoc on the left wing and passed the ball into the middle. The ball was destined for players behind Giroud’s back but the Frenchman picked it instead and managed to lay it off. Monreal took a shot, a diagonal one, to the left side of Vorm’s goal. The ball went under the Dutch ‘keeper to make it 0:1. It was the first out of (hopefully) many goals Monreal will score for Arsenal.
Gervinho came close to score a few minutes later but his shot was saved by Vorm. De Guzman hit the side-netting at the other end of pitch from the free-kick that was needlessly given away by Arteta.
We needed another goal to make things certain and it happened in the final minutes of the match. Ramsey and Gervinho were on the counter-attack. Ramsey put through a wonderful pass to Gervinho who cut inside and then placed the ball past Vorm to seal our victory.
Overall, it was a very decent performance. I want solid defending and that is exactly what Arsenal produced in the last two matches. This victory should be a great confidence booster, especially given that our team needs every victory until the end of the season.
on the win…
The attitude of our players and our team was outstanding. Even when the legs were a bit less fresh, we kept going and refused to drop points. We knew before the game what was expected, and we gave absolutely everything until the end. What we did in the last three days is always difficult to do for any team. To win away in the Champions League and win straight away three days later in the Premier League is very difficult. I would like to congratulate the players for that.
on the importance of three points…
We’ll know that at the end of the season. The win was absolutely wanted from us. We couldn’t drop points today to have a chance – we are in that situation. We have shown as well that we are up for a fight and we will do that until the end of the season.
on the players’ celebrations after the second goal…
I came out many times and said I’m a great admirer of the attitude of this team. I think to win a big game on Wednesday night transformed the belief of the team a little bit. We’ve struggled during the season to find that and I think you could see today again that you cannot question the attitude of these players. The solidarity they showed are qualities that will be needed until the last day of the season.
on being under pressure after Everton’s win…
It will be like that until the end of the season now. We have one advantage – we know what is expecting us and we have already been in this situation before. We have the right spirit and the right attitude.
on sensing it wouldn’t be Arsenal’s day when Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the bar twice…
We just kept trying. You cannot convert every chance into a goal and they defended well as well. We defended well. It was a game of defensive stability. We just needed an opening somewhere. It was down to the team who scored the first today.
on the first goal coming from an unlikely source…
I think if you look at the chances Swansea created today, it’s very little. We were defensively stable and from then on, you can use any mistake of your opponent to win the game.
on winning games by defending well…
We defended high up the pitch today and [for] the whole second half, we tried to keep them in their half. We didn’t create clear-cut chances until the last 20 minutes. From then on, once you are 1-0 up, they really had to come and it all became easier.
on Michu taking exception to Fabianski’s post-match celebration…
You have the right to celebrate without being provocative. I know Fabianski well. I know that he had not even seen Michu when he celebrated.
Jenkinson Mertesacker Koscielny Monreal
Arteta (c) Diaby
Lukasz Fabianski | 7.0: The Swans rarely troubled him today. Made a brilliant save of Michu’s shot that couldn’t harm as linesman called an offside. Two tough away matches – two clean sheets. Not a bad bargaining chip for a goalkeeper who hasn’t been between the sticks for a year and has just three months left on his contract.
Carl Jenkinson | 7.5: Another great performance. He did make a mistake by misplacing a pass that could have cost us a goal in the first half but luckily Michu fired it wide.
Per Mertesacker | 7.5: Commanding performance in the defence. He was out-smarted by Michu in the first half on one occasion but there were no consequences. He participated in the attack that led to our first goal.
Laurent Koscielny | 7.5: His partnership with Mertesacker has looked very solid against Bayern and Swansea.
Nacho Monreal | 7.5: Scored his first goal in an Arsenal shirt and perhaps the most important one in the whole season. Made a mistake in the first half by playing Rangel onside but he is a player that offers something new to our team.
Mikel Arteta | 6.5: Gave away too many fouls again but other than that, he did his job in the midfield.
Abou Diaby | 5.5: Had one promising dribble, but overall his game was much slower than our level requires.
Santi Cazorla | 8.5: Brilliant performance from the Spaniard who returned to his favourite position in the hole. He pulled all the strings in our team today, passing and creating space with his dangerous dribbling. Had a beautiful left-footed shot saved by Vorm in the first half.
Theo Walcott | 5.5: Not exactly the best performance from the English winger.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain | 7.0: Very lively performance from the youngster. He was denied by the crossbar in the first half twice. His improvement is something that we all expect with a lot of excitement as Alex is one of the biggest talents in the Premiership.
Olivier Giroud | 6.5: Grabbed himself a lucky assist with a lay-off for Monreal.
Aaron Ramsey | 7.0: Got himself an assist after wonderful counter-attack with Gervinho. His form improves as the season approaches to its end.
Gervinho | 7.5: He has shown a glimpse of “the-best-player-Eden-Hazard-has-ever-played-with”-talent in his 20-minute-cameos against Bayern and Swansea. He looked more determined than ever before and was rewarded with the goal that sealed our victory. He might be our super-sub for the rest of the season.
Kieran Gibbs | N/A: Didn’t spend enough time on the field to leave an impression, but did his job.
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