Sunday analysis: Same old Arsenal pay price for defensive failings
Swansea 2-1 Arsenal
It's a pretty good time to plug this again.
This game took its time to get going, but three goals (one of which an outstanding direct free-kick), a come-from-behind victory and yet more defensive woes for Arsenal made this slow burner from the Liberty Stadium worth watching.
Eventually. The first half really was pitiful in South Wales as both sides played out pointless tiki-taka; Swansea guiltier than their visitors of keeping the ball in their own half and doing little with it. There were signs the game would improve as we reached half-time, but it was Arsenal who looked likelier to make something happen.
And after a turgid hour's football they did when a perfectly executed counter-attack ended with Alexis Sanchez netting his seventh goal in six games. But it wouldn't last, and we should have known better that the Gunners could hold onto the lead after their Champions League collapse against Anderlecht in midweek.
When Gylfi Sigurdsson lashed home an unstoppable beauty on 75 minutes, it was game on. Within three it was game over thanks to substitute Bafetimbi Gomis, who rose highest to meet a Jefferson Montero cross and secure Garry Monk's men all three points; Arsenal's chance to leapfrog West Ham into fourth blown.
Instead it was the Swans who soared above Arsenal in the table, though it hadn't looked like they'd be capable of doing so in a first half where they were guilty of lacking initiative. Their mind-numbing possession had only carved out one useful chance for Marvin Emnes – although it's not like their opponents had been much better. Welbeck and Sanchez both went close before the break.
And then Arsenal finally woke up. It took them an hour, but their opening goal in Wales was the result of an incisive breakway gleefully finished off by Sanchez. It started with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain bursting forward into the Swansea half and laying off to Santi Cazorla, who threaded Welbeck out wide. But rather than go alone, the England man unselfishly cut back for the Gunners' main man to convert.
Then Swansea decided to have a go – they had to, after all. Recent history has proven that Arsenal's makeshift back four are there to be got at, and once again Wenger's men crumbled under the pressure.
There wasn't a huge amount they could do about the equaliser, bar not giving away the free-kick that former Tottenham man Sigurdsson thumped into the top corner from 25 yards, but the winner highlighted exactly why Laurent Koscielny's return can't come sooner.
When Jefferson Montero, a brilliant performer for the Swans throughout, floated in a cross towards former Lyon man Gomis, the inevitability of a goal was high.
Nacho Monreal playing at centre-back is always cause to press the panic button, and the Spaniard had zero chance of denying his French opponent in the air when the time came.
Even in a drab first half, Ecuadorian winger Montero was one Swan who looked capable of cutting open the Gunners. He had the beating of poor Calum Chambers – largely unguarded to grave consequences, and booked for the sixth time in eight league games – on almost each occasion he tried, and it was another run past the England hopeful that teed up Gomis' winner.
Wenger's wish to head into the season with six defenders has backfired. Same old Arsenal? You bet.
"Small details win games," noted Jamie Carragher in the post-match drawl. "And they almost always end up costing Arsenal."
- Arsenal have won 4 Premier League matches this season, and those have come against teams currently in the bottom 7 of the table.
- Arsenal's 2 lowest points totals after 11 games under Wenger have come in the past 3 seasons (16 in 2012/13, 17 this season).
- Arsenal have conceded 6 headed goals in the Premier League this season; only bottom side Burnley (8) have let in more.
- Arsenal have lost more points from a winning position than any other Premier League team this season.
- Swansea had not gained a single point from a losing position in the Premier League this season, before today’s game.
- Gylfi Sigurdsson has been involved in 9 goals (2 goals, 7 assists) in 11 league appearances this season.
- Calum Chambers has been booked in 6 of his 8 Premier League starts for Arsenal.
- Alexis Sanchez has scored 6 goals in his last 4 Premier League games.
- There were 9 yellow cards in this game. Only 1 match this season (Burnley vs Hull yesterday, with 10) has seen more.
- Swansea had a season-high 6 corners in this game, having only won 19 in their previous 10 league matches this season.