Boy oh boy, that match was certainly not for the weakhearted. The opening fifteen minutes showed us that Arsenal were confident in possession, but it was obvious straight away that it wouldn’t be easy. Swansea sat deep, as was expected, which made things difficult for the Gunners. Such a deep line from the visitors resulted in the hosts trying to pass the ball into the net, which can work sometimes, but when it doesn’t work, it becomes incredibly frustrating to watch.
Swansea arrived at the Emirates with a new manager, so not many people gave them a chance in this one, including myself. They haven’t been all that impressive this season, and with the change in the hot-seat, you’d imagine there would be a hangover, if you can call it that. After watching that match, there will certainly be a lot of Arsenal supporters with a hangover tomorrow. Plenty of adult beverages were needed to get through that one.
Having taken a two goal lead, Arsenal should have been in cruise control, but, that didn’t happen. Instead, my heart was out of control, and the missus was thoroughly enjoying watching me flip out in front of the TV.
Prior to Xhaka’s sending off, I was fairly composed, but that all went to sh*t in the 70th minute. There is certainly a lot we learned today, but below are three key things we learned, or at least should have learned.
Two Steps Forward, And The Occasional Three Steps Back
Theo Walcott has found consistency and goals this season playing out on the right-hand side again, but today, he took us on a joy ride. Fifteen minutes into the match, he looked lively off the ball, but when he did get the ball, his decision making was a bit delayed. It reminded me of the old Walcott, who was very undecided when in possession, and then his frustrations would get the best of him. I wanted to believe we weren’t going to see the old Walcott today.
He quickly put those thoughts to rest with two quick goals, putting the Arsenal ahead. The first goal was not a nominee for goal of the month, but it just showed that when someone is confident, they are going to manage to get themselves in those positions. No way that should have gone in, but he fought for it, and earned it. His second was quite easy, and had I been Bob Bradley, I would have been giving my players an earful at the break. At this level, goals of that sort just can’t be happening. He managed to take the ball down at the edge of the six yard box, had time to turn, and put it past a helpless Fabianski.
This is the Theo Walcott we saw three years ago, but then faded. He’s finally coming into himself, which is fantastic. A hat-trick was on the cards, and with a comfortable lead, it looked destined to happen.
Fast forward to the final twenty minutes, and we then saw glimpses of the old Theo, but fortunately, it didn’t cost us.
When we needed his pace and goalscoring form, he came close a few times, but could not get us over that line and into a comfort zone.
His first chance came from a volley, which to be fair, was well executed, but happened to go straight at Fabianksi. Next up, his shot that hit the post and trickled across the goal line. He did well to get into that position, opened up his body, but just couldn’t get that third goal. Lastly, and the most frustrating one, was from Ox’s cross.
Oxlade-Chamberlain put in some hard work to create that chance, and with the entire goal at his mercy, from about six yards out, Theo managed to miss. That would have put the match to bed, but again, he just couldn’t manage to get it over the line. Of the three, that last one to me was the one that stands out. As I mentioned, fortunately it didn’t cost us the three points, but at this level, those are the opportunities you need to take. The luck and fortune he had in the first 45 minutes went missing in the final 20 minutes.
Those moments are going to happen from time to time, but I think it also goes to prove why Theo isn’t able to play as the loan striker. While he is capable of scoring goals, when it comes down to crunch time and it’s a tight match, is he capable of delivering that killer blow?
#Kostafi Are Human
It’s been a match made in heaven for Koscielny & Mustafi. They both accent each other very well, and have looked incredibly comfortable at times since the beginning of the campaign, but today, well today it looked very different.
There’s obviously a lot that goes into this because if your midfield isn’t helping, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on you, but positionally, they looked off.
In the first half, they reacted well to some mistakes in the midfield. Losing the ball cheaply up the field against a team that has pace going forward can be problematic, and that showed a few times that Koscielny & Mustafi were left in a 1v1 situation, but dealt with it well enough. That’s the last thing you want as a defender. Can’t have your central defenders exposed that way, and in years past, Arsenal would probably have conceded first on a counter-attack, but #Kostafi dealt with it.
The final twenty minutes had me scratching my head to be honest. As I mentioned, the frantic defending and mental lapses can be attributed to some nervy moments, and the fact that they were down to 10-men, but it was scary to watch. It seemed as if every single cross that made it into the box ended up on the head of a Swansea player. Thinking back, the only one that didn’t came in stoppage time, when a foul was called as Mustafi got kicked in the head. Apart from that, how many chances did Swansea have to grab a third goal from a cross? Players in behind them, not marked, etc.. Even the second goal was proof of that as Mustafi got caught ball watching, Borja got in between him and Koscielny, putting us on the ropes again.
Swansea’s chances would have definitely resulted in a goal in previous years, but somehow today, it didn’t. I’m not saying that #Kostafi still isn’t a fantastic partnership because they are, but this match will be a good lesson to learn from. Against better opposition, those chances result in a goal.
Arsene Wenger Needs To Be Quicker To Pull The Trigger
As soon as Xhaka got sent off, Arsene Wenger would need to show his experience, but that wasn’t the case. All match, Barrow was causing Monreal problems down the left side. It goes without saying that Iwobi doesn’t help defensively as much as someone like Theo, Ox, or even Alexis would. We were able to get away with it for the most part, but Swansea’s second goal came from Monreal’s side, and fortunately, a third one didn’t, but they were certainly knocking on the door.
Down to 10-men, it was obvious Wenger didn’t want to pull off Ozil straight away, which is why he moved him to the left side when bringing on Coquelin. But, that still wasn’t fixing the problem we were facing, which was that we had no answer to help slow down Barrow. He was in a 1v1 situation with Monreal more often than not, and the Spaniard was struggling to deal with his pace.
Not sure why it took Le Prof so long to see this, but he can thank the footy gods, along with some poor finishing from the Swansea players that they didn’t concede a third. Even if he didn’t want to take off Ozil, he should have moved Theo to the left side in order to help Monreal, which he ended up doing just before the German came off, but he should have done it about 10-minutes earlier.
Fortunately today it didn’t cost us, but had they conceded a third from the left side, Wenger would certainly have had to answer some questions in regards to why he took so long to sort it out.