Swansea City 0 – 2 Arsenal
0 – 1 Monreal (74)
0 – 2 Gervinho (90)
Arsenal’s international contingent leave for their national squads having clipped The Swans wings. Her Majesty might be the only one to enjoy roast Swan on a regular basis but Arsenal had a small taster yesterday. The eventual margin of victory would have been more bar the intervention of the woodwork and a goalkeeping display from Michel Worm which has seen him linked once more with a move to North London in the Summer.
The expected change in defence came with the recall of Nacho Monreal to left back but it was a courageous decision to recall Abou Diaby for Aaron Ramsey given the Welshman’s performance in Bavaria and the reaction if the result was less than favourable; Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain the final move to replace Tomas Rosicky.
Arsenal started brightly, Oxlade-Chamberlain almost broke the deadlock early on, coming closer to breaking the bar with a curling shot having bundled his way through the right side of the Swansea defence. The hosts countered with Rangel prodding wide before Michu span a shot past the post following Jenkinson’s sloppy play on the edge of the area. Riding your luck has always been an element of solid defences, playing away from home does not lend itself readily to the myth of not allowing your opponent any opportunities at all.
Cazorla’s dipping shot was parried and gathered by Worm at the second attempt before the half ended as it began, Oxlade-Chamberlain’s shot from distance clipping the top of the bar en route to safety. The second half was more of the same, sporadic attempts from the home side, pressure from the visitors. Neither side was creating chances of note though. Gervinho and Ramsey took the place of Oxlade-Chamberlain and Diaby; within five minutes Arsenal had the lead. Cazorla squirted the ball through to Giroud, his stumble and miscontrol quickly recovered to push the ball back to Monreal. The Spaniard created space before his shot hopped, skipped and jumped the corner of the net, breaking his Arsenal duck quicker than any modern era Arsenal left back except Ashley Cole. Just clear of Winterburn mind, one game.
Gervinho’s moment almost came before de Guzmann rippled the sidenetting with a freekick. The Ivorian had the last laugh. Ramsey was sent clear on the right and he squared the ball inside to Gervinho. With just the goalkeeper to beat, he finished with an aplomb which had been missing since the Autumnal leaves span their way to earth.
Three deserved points were gained but the manner of victory was crucial. Swansea pierced the home defence just once, the rest of their chances were from distance. Having surrendered a late lead in January’s FA Cup tie to a sloppy equaliser, Arsenal showed great maturity in the final fifteen minutes. de Guzmann’s effort aside, there was a solid line of red shirts across the pitch when Swansea pressed for a goal. The Welsh side could not breach the line and were restricted to wayward efforts. It was disciplined, the pressure of the manager’s words about it being a must-win match bringing about the desired professionalism as a response.
Arsène praised his charges in the post-match press conferences,
The attitude of our players and our team was outstanding. Even when the legs were a bit less fresh, we kept going and refused to drop points.
It was the much-needed continuation of the performance levels shown in Munich. International breaks are rarely well-timed in the football calendar, this one particularly poor from Arsenal’s perspective. The momentum gained in these two games will diminish as outside and in some cases lesser, influences provide an unwelcome interruption to focus. Arsène noted that the two results would have a positive effect on the squad,
I think to win a big game on Wednesday night transformed the belief of the team a little bit. We’ve struggled during the season to find that and I think you could see today again that you cannot question the attitude of these players. The solidarity they showed are qualities that will be needed until the last day of the season.
That is the key difference between now and three weeks ago; two good results, two defensively solid performances have given them some self-belief that was long missing. When the season ends is the time to address the question of why this has taken so long to come to light. Right now, the manager and coaching staff will be looking to work on it with those who remain behind and others when they return.