Saturday, September 10, 2011

Arsenal 1 - Swansea 0

It was almost like the start of a new season, with a brand new team, at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon, as Arsenal hosted newly promoted side Swansea. Off an 8-2 drubbing at Man United, five new signings on the last day before the transfer window closed, and an international break, the Gunners needed a solid performance today to reassure themselves and their fretting fans. In a "normal" season, this was the kind of game in which Arsenal would destroy a lesser opponent. This year, Arsenal fans would be mollified, if not quite satisfied, by the 1-0 final scoreline, even if the only goal came from a fluky mental mistake by Swansea goalie Michel Worm.

To be fair, Swansea play some good football. Unlike many sides that, when they play at the Emirates, just sit back and try to soak up the pressure. And Swansea's defense is pretty solid. That said, the Gunners didn't look all that much better than the Swans. They had more possession and created a few more chances, but they only rarely threatened the Swansea goal (Robin van Persie's magnificent strike off the post a notable exception). Theo Walcott proved, once again, that he couldn't hit the side of a barn door with a cross. He also wasted a couple of half-chances in front of goal. Wojciech Szczesny was, once again, very strong in front of the Arsenal net.

As for Arsenal's new boys, they settled in well enough. Per Mertesaker in particular had a strong game in the center of defense; only once was he caught out of position. Mikel Arteta played the role of quarterback and made some good passes. However, Arsenal fans might hope for a bit more offensive aggressiveness from him in future matches; and he did disappear a bit from the game in the second half. Yossi Benayoun came on as a second half substitute. He showed some good pace, but also some rust. Needless to say, it's going to take more than a few practices and one or two games for everyone to gain a level of comfort playing with one another.
Arsenal fans will breath a sigh of relief that Arsenal were able to finally a win a game this season in the Premier League (on the fourth try). But it was hardly the kind of convincing victory we would normally expect at home over a side like Swansea. With critical players like Wilshire and Vermaelen out for another two months (or longer), we can only hope that the new additions settle quickly. The imminent return of Gervinho after serving his three-match ban for a red card should help to Gunners regain their cutting edge on offense.

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