Another three points in the bag, level with top of the table Man City, and rising above the difficulties of facing a team with a new manager means that, on the face of things, this was a great day at the office for Arsenal.
This game provided much more than a serene victory though.
Before kickoff, Swansea’s record at The Emirates was the hot topic, and the fact that they have three wins in the last four trips to our home meant that despite their poor league position, Swansea must be taken gravely.
The same lineup from our last outing two weeks ago in the 1-0 win over Burnley, and the 3-0 victory over Chelsea the week before, was named, which showed Arsene Wenger was in no mood to see Swansea return to Wales with the points again.
It was a fast start to the game for the Gunners, and there were chances created, but Swansea somehow held on, even if it was occasionally more luck than judgement. Most notable was Mustafi’s header from an Ozil corner which flicked the top of the bar.
The home fans had to wait until the 26th minute to see their side break the deadlock, and it was Theo Walcott – much maligned by the press after his anonymous display for England – who was the man who produced the goods.
A bouncing ball into the box should have been emphatically dealt with by Jordi Amat, but he instead chose to steady himself with a touch before clearing, and the attacking instincts of Walcott were spot on, as he snaffled the ball from Amat and hit the back of the net. The move started from a lofted ball into the box from Alexis, and a wonderful run behind the lines from Bellerin meant he had time to plant a cushion header into the danger area, and Theo was the man on the spot.
Seven minutes later, Theo had another. A corner was flung in, and Jack Cork should have headed clear. Instead, he missed, and the ball fell onto an unsuspecting Gylffi Sigurdsson’s heel, which meant Walcott could spin and finish past Fabianski to double the lead.
Arsenal were cruising, but concentration is a ninety minute game, and this was not the case when Swansea pulled a lifeline from nowhere.
Passing around our defensive third with no danger, attempting to comfortably see out the half, Granit Xhaka got caught napping, and Sigurdsson wrapped his foot around a delicious curling shot which gave Cech no chance.
From nowhere, Swansea had a hand on solid ground.
The second half saw plenty of action too, and it was Mesut Ozil who reinforced Arsenal’s superiority, after ghosting into the box to thump a close range volley past Fabianski, from Alexis’s great lofted pass.
That concentration problem cropped up once again though, and Nacho Monreal – who has had better days in our shirt – once again was exposed by Mo Barrow, who put in a cross which was finished by Borja, to once again keep Swansea in with a real shout of grabbing something from the game.
Four minutes later though, the real talking point of the game occurred. There was much more to glean from this match as well, so here are 5 key points from tbe game:
Granit Xhaka’s Red Card was a cynical foul, but it was NOT a Red.
Mo Barrow twisted, turned and fooled a somewhat dozy Xhaka, and evaded him. He started to motor, until a leg hooked him to the turf. Granit Xhaka knew Barrow was gone, and he did what he thought was necessary to stop him. It was foolish, and he should know a little better, but we wanted an enforcer in the centre of the park, and these types will always pick up bookings. The problem with this offence though, is that it was on the halfway line. He didn’t stop a likely goal, and it wasn’t violent conduct, so why did John Moss hook him?
John Moss is looking to make friends in Swansea…..and Tottenham
Throughout the game, there were repeat offenders in a white shirt which went unpunished, but Xhaka prompted Moss to rush over and instantly brandish a red card. The man seemed intent on replacing Mike Dean, Clattenburg and Anthony Taylor as Arsenal fans favourite referee, as his ignorance at attack-halting tackles and some laughable offside calls happened with alarming frequency. One to watch out for when he next officiates.
Santi Cazorla and Hector Bellerin were pivotal
Hector and Santi covered the most ground in an Arsenal jersey, and Bellerin’s constant probing down the right was a vital outlet to stretch a stoic but disorganised Swans defence. Santi Cazorla offered another kindly reminder to his manager on the sidelines that he is worth a contract extension, with his effervescent hunger for the ball and he was always positive when in possession. Santi has so much to offer, and has to be amongst the first names on the team sheet.
Theo continues to impress
In an England shirt, Theo – along with his teammates may I add – is underwhelming. In last season’s Arsenal shirt, Theo was pretty dire for the majority. This season though, Walcott has found his purpose again. His instinctive positioning was key to grabbing his two goals, which is a huge plus point as it is proof he has evolved. He of course should have grabbed his hat-trick, but we as fans can be more than pleased that Theo is offering another prong to our attack. Long may his fitness continue, and his goals. Five goals in eight games so far.
Alexis not amongst the goals, but makes the difference
The Chilean was amongst our many stars who was on international duty, but he returned of course, later than every one of his Gunners mates as the travelling distance from South America is far greater. So, a jaded Sanchez was a potential problem. The thing is though, that a tired Alexis still has more energy than a nuclear reactor, and he may have been denied by Fabianski, but it was his passes into the box which led to Theo’s first goal and Mesut’s fabulous volley. A blessing he is in our team.
Onward we go then, to Wednesday, and a return to Champions League action against Ludogorets. Then, we have another home game against Boro in the Premier League.
Make no mistake, this was a tough game against a tough opponent. Swansea completed more passes than us, and there was not a marked difference in the amount of shots between both sides. At times we looked peerless, but the most vulnerable time is when you score a goal. We cannot switch off, and other teams may punish us more severely.
On the whole though, it’s another positive result.
Keep up the pressure, keep the winning habit.