Swansea 2 (Michu 58, Graham 87) – Arsenal 2 (Podolski 81, Gibbs 83)
Man of the Match – Danny Graham (Swansea)
Arsenal fans got what they had asked for today. Passion, desire, grit and a single minded mentality. Arsenal displayed plenty of those qualities, but unfortunately fell short, against a hard working Swansea side, who earned themselves a FA Cup 3rd Round replay at the Emirates in 10 days time.
The only changes in Arsenal’s squad from the drab draw at Southampton was the inclusion of Aaron Ramsey, in place of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Per Mertesacker in place of Thomas Vermaelen. Arsenal looked to set up like a typical 4-4-2. The indication was clearly that Arsene Wenger wanted his side to win the battle in midfield, and use the pace of Walcott, and the physicality of Giroud to take on the Swansea defence.
Swansea, in complete contrast, made several changes to their squad. Michu was relegated to the bench. Former Arsenal defender Kyle Bartley started, while captain Ashley Williams, the man who nearly murdered a Dutch cunt recently was rested. Pablo Hernandez was rested as well, in place of South Korean Ki Sung Yeung.
It seemed a slow and sluggish start from both sides, with neither taking enough initiative or drive to create chances. The game sparked to life, when Danny Graham took Bartley’s long ball into his stride, and forced a brilliant save from Szczesny. Former Villarreal midfielder Jonathan de Guzman saw his shot sail narrowly over the bar.
Arsenal weren’t making most of the free kicks they were winning, as all of them were held safely by Netherlands international Michel Vorm. Walcott was looking increasingly poor having played on the right for most of the time. When he made the foray inwards, he looked threatening, having been set up by Ramsey on one ocassion, but his effort was blocked.
He had a chance with a free-kick which was poor as poor can be, striking the post. Thierry Henry, eh? Aaron Ramsey carved out a chance for himself, but was denied by a last ditch Ben Davies tackle, when it seemed the Welshman was destined to score, and boo the home crowd, who had been on his back, all afternoon, for his Cardiff connections.
On the other end, Swansea were looking to make most of the counterattacks, with Kieran Gibbs’ positioning looking suspect. He gave far too much space for the little Nathan Dyer to exploit, but the Gunners managed to thwart most attacks. Bartley almost scored against his former club, but his header hit the post.
Arsenal came out with more purpose in the second half, completely dictating game play, dominating possession, and whizzing the ball around. However, Michael Laudrup made two brilliant substitutions when he bought on the Spanish duo of Pablo Hernandez and Michu.
2 minutes later, Swansea had the lead. Who else, but Michu. The lanky forward, tricked Koscielny and escaped the attentions of Mertesacker, to slot the ball easily past Szczesny. It was a goal completely against the run of play.
Arsenal, however, displayed tremendous desire, in the next few minutes, but had little to show for it, as all attacks ended with some good Swansea defending. Arsenal had a great chance to equalize, when a Ramsey cross was met by Giroud’s head, but it was way wide off the post.
Arsenal were confidently spraying the ball around, and the Swans were looking increasingly erratic. They handed back possession to Arsenal over and over again. Podolski, on for Ramsey looked to create something, even as Walcott almost equalized at the far post, when played in by a poor back pass.
Arsenal came close, when Podolski’s shot from close range was saved, but the assistant had waved offside. Arsenal finally got the goal they richly deserved for their endavour. Koscielny track backed a corner headed out, and managed to put into the path of Podolski, who turned and shot in one movement. The ball found it’s way into the back of the net.
The game was there for the taking, and we did. Kieran Gibbs played a delicious 1-2 with Olivier Giroud, who recreated the Montpellier assist, as Gibbs smashed home what seemed the winning goal in the 83rd minute. It was a brilliantly crafted goal, which got the finish it needed.
I was in delirium, but I knew, with Arsenal, it’s never over. Just as I had messaged my friends saying “Now watch Swansea play like Barcelona”, they won a corner. Kemy Augustien took it, and Arsenal failed to clear. It fell right at the feet of Ki, who played in Danny Graham, like clockwork. The striker then smashed the ball into the roof of the net. Typical Arsenal.
Arsenal however, could have won it at the death, when Koscielny’s header was directed straight at Vorm. Swansea, themselves could have won it, when Tiendalli’s shot hit the side netting, despite the open gap in goal.
So, a typical cup tie, and despite the draw, a good gritty performance from an Arsenal side. A few positives. Can’t get better than the fight we displayed, to go 2-1 up. However, honestly speaking, we should have come away with a win, considering it was not the strongest Swansea side.
Our defending looks poor, and I would love to see another versatile defender like Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa at the club. We look short in midfield as well, despite starting with 4 central midfielders. Mikel Arteta is good, but again showed, he is vulnerable at times. He needs some help, and that can be solved by playing a player, with good presence.
Mertesacker had an awful day, and looked like the Mertesacker of last season. Painfully slow and indecisive. Koscielny was made to work doubly hard, because of this, and also because Gibbs was enjoying his time attacking. Sagna put in a much improved performance.
Wilshere was enterprising as ever. Olivier Giroud led the line well, but you would like to see him score some more goals, for all the hard work he does, in holding off defenders, and creating chances for others. Walcott was anonymous throughout the game, and clearly requires a self-retrospection session, to see if he really deserves a shiny new contract.
Arsenal’s only worry will be the fixture pile up. Arsenal fixtures this month now will read as follows. Man.City (H) – 13th, Swansea (H) – 16th, Chelsea (A) – 20th, West Ham (H) – 23rd, Brighton (A) (if we qualify) – 26th, Liverpool (H) – 30th, Stoke (H) – 2nd Feb.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
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