Swansea 2 Arsenal 1: Defensive Frailties Exposed Again!!!
Swansea 2 (Sigurdsson 75′, Gomis 78′) – Arsenal 1 (Sanchez 68′)
Following the capitulation against Anderlecht, the least we expected from Arsenal was a good performance that hopefully would have resulted into three points. As Arsene Wenger famously said, it takes a while to build confidence but it takes an instant for it to fade away from a team. The Gunners have always been a “fragile side” in recent times, and I’m not talking about the usual niggling injuries that haunt the team. I’m talking about the way the Gunners tend to give their opponents a chance to hurt them, and sadly, this trend hasn’t stopped as it was on show yet again at Swansea.
I didn’t expect much changes in the team that fucked up big time against Anderlecht and as expected, Aaron Ramsey replaced the injured Mikel Arteta alongside that waste of matter and space, Mathieu Flamini. It’s really disheartening to see how low his stock has gotten this season but I’d come to that much later.
From the onset, you could see how the Gunners struggled to get a hold of the game. The needless sloppy passing and shaky all-round play was shocking for a side that’s usually confident with the ball. Wojciech Szczesny was called to action a couple of times and a noteworthy highlight of the first half was seeing the energetic Swansea winger, Jefferson Montero, tear Calum Chambers apart. We all know that Chambers isn’t the most agile of defenders and with a player of his inexperience, I expected Wenger to instruct Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to offer him more protection but that never happened. A more experienced lad like Tomas Rosicky would have known what to do.
Despite the fact that Swansea had the upper hand with a couple of chances here and there that merely stung the palms of Szczesny, Arsenal had chances to kill off the contest in the first half. Ramsey went on to have a stinker but he produced a moment of immense quality when he used his technique to blast a shot that almost beat Lukasz Fabianski. Then there was the one-two between Danny Welbeck and the Ox that left the English forward clean on goal but he chose to produce one of those frustrating moments that made Manchester United fans feel that his sale was justified. If it was Alexis Sanchez, that outcome would definitely had been different.
Even though it was glaring to see Chambers struggle (he also got a yellow card), the way Arsenal’s midfield crumbled was just downright shocking. Flamini was non-existent throughout the entire game till his substitution and Ramsey made no influence at all and he was also subbed after another below par performance.
In the second half, Arsenal upped the ante a bit and the goal might not be one of the best you’d see from the club this season but the buildup was really good. Welbeck showed great composure to see out the challenge of Ashley Williams before threading a neat pass to Alexis and as expected, Fabianski’s net rattled.
Same scenario like Tuesday, the Gunners were leading with thirty minutes to go. Were they going to be compact and keep things tight? Would they be disciplined enough to see out the game and grab all three points? Where they going to defend better as a team as Mertesacker stated last week? Questions for the gods.
What did we get? Typical Arsenal capitulating in grand style. Garry Monk handed a sub appearance to a young quick Gambian-Swedish bloke called Modou Barrow and he made his mark by darting through the middle of the park (Flamini was probably basking in the Caribbean sun and getting a sun tan at this time) till Kieran Gibbs committed a cynical challenge at the edge of the area to scythe down the lad. Gyifl Sigurdsson did the honors of curling a peach of a free kick past Szczesny but could the goal be avoided? Of course!!!!
Take players like Victor Wanyama or even Morgan Schneiderlein for instance. They’re definitely not on the same level as a player like Flamini (light years ahead of the French instruction-barking bloke) but if they were faced a situation where an attacking midfielder was surging down the middle of the park, they would not be ball watching as some lad waltz past them to create a goalscoring opportunity. Southampton’s back line consists of Nathaniel Clyne, Toby Alderweireld, Jose Fonte and Ryan Bertrand. These aren’t defenders that would instill fear on any opposition forward but while they do their bit at the back, they have been offered a great deal of protection from Wanyama and Schneiderlein. This is one of the reasons why they have the best defense in the Premier League.
As if conceding such a goal wasn’t bad enough, Montero destroyed Chambers yet again before lobbing a cross that was headed home by the super sub, Batefembi Gomis. Even though I feel really sad for Nacho Monreal because he’s the guy that would take the stick for not getting to the ball before the French forward, I don’t think Per Mertesacker would have fared any better, because for a guy so tall, he’s really shite in defending some aerial balls.
The stats folks stated that Gomis’ goal was the sixth goal the Gunners had conceded from a header. Only Burnley has a poorer record this season in this regard. The goal prompted Wenger to act and he threw in Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott into the mix that came on for the ineffectual pair of Flamini and Ramsey. Late on, Yaya Sanogo came on to put Chambers out of his misery. The Gunners huffed and puffed like the Big Bad Wolf but Swansea built their defensive house on a brick wall and that was it. Another loss coupled with a putrid performance.
Wenger’s quotes in the post-match press conference summed it up for me,
“It was a game where we were in control and at 1-0 up I felt we allowed them back into the game by losing some challenges in the middle of the park that you cannot afford to lose and on that front we were a little bit on the back foot”
At least, he knows what went wrong. Sadly, January 1 isn’t next weekend.
The international break would give the players a chance to regroup, reflect and try to learn some lessons on what went wrong.
Let’s just hope that they all come back from the break unscathed. Especially the Alexis Awesome Sanchez.
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