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No defence for Arsenal as Ramsey suffers kitchen nightmare

Swansea 3 Arsenal 2

Sinclair pen 16, Dyer 57, Graham 70; van Persie 5, Walcott 69

As the old saying goes: if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. On the occasion of his first league fixture in his home country since leaving Cardiff City 3½ years ago, Wales captain Aaron Ramsey was the most notable of several Arsenal players to wilt as Swansea turned up the heat. The visitors’ failings should not, however, detract from Brendan Rodgers’ side, who beat Arsenal at their own game, passing the ball quickly and confidently, working hard when not in possession, and counter-attacking with real purpose. Their well-deserved victory raised them into the top half of the table, while Arsenal are now four points adrift of the top four and looking less like a Champions League team with every passing game.

With Gervinho departed for the Africa Cup of Nations and Mikel Arteta (calf) joining Francis Coquelin (hamstring) on the sidelines, Arsene Wenger was forced to shuffle his already strained resources. Johan Djourou and Ignasi Miquel stepped into the full back positions, while Yossi Benayoun and Andrey Arshavin were promoted to the starting line-up.

Szczesny

Djourou – Mertesacker – Koscielny – Miquel

Song – Benayoun

Ramsey

Walcott – van Persie – Arshavin

In the reverse fixture at Emirates Stadium in September, a rare error by Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm had gifted Arshavin his only league goal of the season as Arsenal struggled to a 1-0 win.

Swansea bounce back from early setback

Van Persie scored his 18th league goal to give Arsenal an early lead (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

The game started in attractive fashion, with both teams looking to pass the ball quickly and progressively, and a simple, elegant sequence by the visitors created the opening goal. Arsenal moved the ball quickly through the middle of the field from Aaron Ramsey to Alex Song to Andrey Arshavin, and the Russian measured a precise through-ball for Robin van Persie. With Steven Caulker in close attendance, the Dutchman hesitated then drove on into the area, creating just enough space to wrap his right foot around a shot which fizzed past Michel Vorm at his near post. It was his 18th league goal of the season, matching his best-ever haul from last season.

But Swansea are both resilient and formidable at home, befitting a record of one defeat in ten with only four goals conceded prior to this match. Undeterred by the early setback, they proceeded to dominate possession for the rest of the half, combining crisp passing with hard work off the ball which utterly disrupted Arsenal’s Arteta-less midfield. It took them until the quarter-hour mark to carve out a clear opportunity, but it resulted in a deserved equaliser.

Ramsey was central to Swansea's first two goals (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

Nathan Dyer, who had already given Ignasi Miquel several difficult moments, picked up the ball just inside the Arsenal box and attempted to dance out of a couple of tackles. However, Ramsey appeared to clip his heel and referee Michael Oliver had no hesitation in awarding the penalty. However, replays clearly showed that Dyer had trodden on Ramsey’s shin first – not deliberate, but potentially damaging. It was an honest mistake by the officials, from where Oliver stood and at full speed it looked all the world like a nailed-on penalty. Scott Sinclair despatched the penalty where he always does – low to the keeper’s left – but struck it with sufficient force and accuracy to beat Wojciech Szczesny comfortably.

Swansea continued to control the middle of the field, with Yossi Benayoun ineffective and Ramsey having what could only be described as a stinker, although Arsenal created the better chances before half-time. Ramsey nearly atoned for conceding the penalty immediately, squeezing in an impossibly tight shot from virtually on the by-line, only for it to be scrambled off the line. Van Persie was set up on his right foot by Benayoun as the Swansea defence went uncharacteristically AWOL, but Vorm was quickly off his line to parry his effort. Theo Walcott, who had a frustratingly poor half, flicked on an Arshavin free kick straight into Vorm’s hands.

The home side only created one other decent chance, a Dyer shot driven directly at Szczesny, but the winger was the clear source of much of their threat, with his pace and trickery bamboozling Miquel on a regular basis. 1-1 at half-time was probably about right though.

Arsenal flounce, Swansea pounce

Arsenal started the second period with intent, creating three good openings in the first three minutes. But Walcott and Arshavin both fired over, while Miquel’s teasing centre across the six-yard box evaded his teammates.

Swansea extracted the maximum penalty, as Joe Allen nipped in to steal the ball from Ramsey. He found Dyer, who set himself on the edge of the area before unleashing a fine shot high and wide of Szczesny’s right hand.

Walcott levelled the scores - for all of 45 seconds (image courtesy of arsenal.com)

Arsene Wenger pulled the ineffective Benayoun and Arshavin shortly after, replacing them with Tomas Rosicky and the hero of Monday’s FA Cup win over Leeds, Thierry Henry. However, it was the Czech who had the more immediate impact, advancing with the ball and sending a speculative 30-yarder wide as Arsenal surged forward with purpose. Three minutes later, they became the first Premier League side to score twice at the Liberty Stadium all season. Johan Djourou‘s defence-splitting ball sent Walcott racing away. He composed himself well before dinking the ball over Vorm and into the net.

Arsenal’s celebrations lasted all of 45 seconds and the culprit was, of all people, Henry. His loose pass fell straight to Gylfi Sigurdsson, who immediately found Danny Graham on the wrong side of Laurent Koscielny. The French defender could not recover his ground in time, Szczesny got his angles all wrong, and Graham confidently put the ball past him.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was thrown on in place of Per Mertesacker shortly after the lanky German defender had contrived to drag a shot wide from less than six yards out. But even with the combination of Arsenal’s past (Henry) and future (Oxlade-Chamberlain) on the field together, Arsenal could not unlock the door. Ramsey did well to direct a bullet header goalwards from a Walcott cross, but straight at Vorm. And inside the final couple of minutes Rosicky’s shot was too hot for Vorm to handle cleanly, Koscielny of all people followed up with an athletic volley but again Vorm saved. On the balance of play, an equaliser was more than they would have deserved as Arsenal succumbed to a second consecutive league defeat.

Post-match reaction and analysis

Arsene Wenger was both brief and curt with his post-match comments, blaming the referee for what he saw as the award of an unfair penalty:

The game was difficult because Swansea played well. It was also decided by some strange decisions from the referee, who gave a penalty that was complete imagination.

From then on I thought there were some odd turning points, like when we came back to 2-2 and made a defensive mistake straight away. It looked similar to Fulham to me, the lack of appreciation for the ball. Our defensive performance was not good enough and that’s why we lost the game.

I think we also missed some unbelievable chances that are very difficult to understand and explain. But apart from that, well done to Swansea, they played well and deserved the win.

And he commented on his side’s defensive frailties:

I feel we are a bit too nervous. We cannot panic every time they have the ball in the final third of the pitch. We have to show more composure and ambition. I think we panicked a bit too quickly today.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, putting aside the individual errors and the sub-par displays from Ramsey (who, to his credit, never attempted to run away and hide and kept trying to the very end), Walcott (in spite of his goal). Benayoun (who was virtually invisible) and Szczesny (who really should have done better with his positioning and footwork on the winner) in particular, Arsenal’s biggest issue remains their lack of proper full-backs. Miquel was left exposed by Dyer’s pace and trickery, and also by a lack of cover from Arshavin. And Djourou is consistently let down by his poor positioning and awareness. In the build up for Swansea’s first goal, he was caught too far inside and upfield, being drawn needlessly to the ball and allowing a Swansea player to run free behind him. This happens too often when he plays on the flank, and neither him nor Miquel offer enough coming forward to compensate for the loss of regulars such as Bacary Sagna and Andre Santos. As a result, the constant procession of stand-ins has left Arsenal vulnerable defensively, and compromised their ability to stretch defences across the full width of the pitch – this was only the second time in the past nine games they have scored more than once.

In midfield, Banayoun had a particularly disappointing game. He is at his best when playing a little further forward, and his attempts to sit deeper added little defensively while curtailing his attacking threat. Ramsey had a poor game but should be given credit for persisting with his game. The fact he is not the sort of player to run and hide when times are tough should be taken as a positive. Certainly be was not deserving of the level of opprobrium levelled at him online in the aftermath of the match. Players have bad games – it happens – but he had the character to keep battling. Unfortunately, with both Benayoun and Ramsey misfiring this left Song to plough almost a lone furrow – which he did manfully, but he could only do so much. The overall performance in midfield underlined how much Arsenal missed the quiet efficiency of Mikel Arteta. The Spaniard would have improved Arsenal’s distribution and offered additional steel defensively which Benayoun lacked. He is one of those players who goes about his job so unobtrusively that you only really notice him by his absence.

Up front van Persie was starved of service after half-time and was forced to drop increasingly deep as the game progressed. Walcott was poor, although it was noticeable his confidence and output picked up after his goal. Arshavin provided a beautiful assist for van Persie, but little else. Neither Henry nor Rosicky really influenced the game, while Oxlade-Chamberlain had a couple of bright moments despite only playing the last 14 minutes.

Things don’t get any easier for Arsenal as they look to bounce back from their second straight league defeat. They return to Emirates Stadium next Sunday for the visit of the champions, Manchester United. Another defeat would see their hopes of a top-four finish recede just that little but more, and there is also the small matter of gaining a measure of revenge for the 8-2 humiliation at Old Trafford at the start of the season.

Arsenal man of the match: Laurent Koscielny. He was caught out for Graham’s winner, but this was nonetheless another solid and assured performance from Arsenal’s most reliable defender.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

7 Responses to No defence for Arsenal as Ramsey suffers kitchen nightmare

  1. A/S says:

    Even though Aaron didn’t exactly cover himself in glory leading up to Swansea’s second, I steel feel Arshavin is mostly to blame as the increasingly frustrating Russian slid an utterly useless ball to Ramsey, that was easily caught out. And where Aaron has a lot of hit-and-misses, at least he gets on the end of things and busts his gut every.single.game. Arshavin, on the contrary .. Dear me.
    And for all his positive spirits and work rate, Yossi still looks like a competition winner out there; far too slow and incapable of any burst or thrust.

    MOTM: Iggy. Neither him nor Johan are full backs but the difference in technique on the ball and what they offer going forward is evident. Where everyone is happy for Johan just to take a ball down successfully, Iggy has a lot more finesse and flair to his game and it is a great shame that no one got on the end of his few good crosses.

    • Tim says:

      Arshavin was poor, but he did provide the assist for van Persie’s goal. As ever, I just wish he would run a bit more. I don’t even expect him to do too much defensively – although Miquel really needed some help against Dyer. We just have too many passengers at the moment, and we are not strong enough elsewhere to compensate. Wilshere, Vermaelen, Arteta, Sagna and Gibbs/Santos cannot come back soon enough.

  2. Gallore says:

    Let the stupid arsene wenger resign, he knew that we lack 2 and 3.instead for the indiot coach to enter transfer market, he decided to be using unfusable elements. He will not buy but waitng for magic to happen. Player like chmk,ashvn,djru,miguel are useless.Pls tell him that he is a stingy and stupid giant.let him do something before is too late.

  3. pat says:

    firstly well played Swansea nice to see a side prepared to play the passing game and entertain
    did u hear pardew say 1 shot on goal at home he doesnt care as long as you win.(lucky for him all the thick geordies dont understand)
    did you clowns find out today that this is the worst squad under wenger? yossi lightweight not good enough for chelski
    arsavin aint paid enough to run
    walcott only paid to run(took his goal well though)
    derooooo no more a premier player than most of us boy just got lucky to play so often for a former top side(must be on low wages or swallows)
    miquel the lad tried hard wont slag him off as out of postion
    ramsey look at his stats gives the ball away too often works hard and at least trys but just not good enough
    ro sicky always plays like we are 4 nil up
    big german trys but all too quick for him
    van p top man but who would blame him if he left?
    TH still better than Chamak

    i could go on but bored already as the yank that owns us just in it for the money and we all know that we wont buy any quality this window or the next
    just in case it stops the development of all the above

    oxo kid looks top drawer maybe we should send him out on loan as he has no chance of playing ahead of wengers favorites

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