Saturday, December 1, 2012

Arsenal 0 - Swansea 2

This was a thoroughly depressing match not simply because Arsenal lost, and at home, but because they never seemed likely to win. The players looked tired; their movement was sluggish; and their plan of attack was thoroughly predictable. Swansea - the poor man's Arsenal (which I mean as a compliment to their style of play) - actually created all of the real chances in the match. That they didn't capitalize on more of them is down to some wonderful goalkeeping by Wojciech Szczesny, who seemed the only Gunner in good form on the day.

But it only takes one goal to win, and with the score 0-0 in the closing minutes of the match, Arsenal were piling on the pressure, while Swansea bided their time looking opportunities to counterattack. On one such occasion, Szczesny made a brilliant save; but he had no chance on the second, which came in the 88th minute, when Michu was played through clear, and simply curled the ball around Arsenal's Polish keeper into the net.

Swansea sealed the victory in extra time, when Carl Jenkinson was dispossessed in the middle of the pitch, and Michu found himself with another one-on-one opportunity against the goal-keeper, which he took clinically.

The less said about this sad Arsenal performance, the better. Unless reinforcements arrive in droves in January, Arsenal's chances of returning to the Champion's League for an eighteenth consecutive year in 2013-14 seem increasingly remote. The strange thing is, on paper Arsenal appear to have a much stronger team than they have shown on the field. Or have players like Wilshire, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Arteta, and others been overrated? I've long thought that to be the case with respect to Walcott. But others are clearly not performing up to their potential either. Is it the scheme? Is it lack of motivation? Has the manager lost the plot (as more and more Arsenal fans seem to believe)? All of the above?

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