Arsenal stunned by Swansea late show
Arsenal 0- 2 Swansea match report: Michu brace downs Gunners
What an unpopular time to be a manager in London it is. Any vitriol Rafael Benitez had to endure early on today as Chelsea succumbed to West Ham, the majority of 60,098 fans at the Emirates Stadium were more than able to match as they made their feelings perfectly clear at the end of Arsenal's painful 2-0 defeat against Swansea at the Emirates Stadium.
Lacking any sort of fluency for much of the game, the home side failed to carve out any genuine clear chances, a Thomas Vermaelen header in the second half aside, in the entire 90 minutes, and the bubbling undercurrent of discontent burst out into unbridled rage as Michu's late brace in the final two minutes made it three league games without a win for Arsene Wenger's men.
Arsenal were sloppy in possession early on as they struggled to find their feet, while Swansea looked perfectly at home and full of movement on an overcast, bitter day in north London.
The Gunner's first half-chance of the game came eight minutes in but Carl Jenkinson could only curl his shot over the bar, to the echoes of groans around the cavernous Emirates Stadium. That was to be a recurring theme throughout the game.
Despite their lack of clear chances, it was the Gunners who were controlling the tempo of the game in the first five minutes, with Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere not quite meshing perfectly but able to retain the ball better than their Swansea counterparts.
But as the first half progressed it was Swansea who appeared the most patient in possession and it was after a lengthy spell on the ball that the first clear cut chance of the game presented itself.
Sung-Yeung Ki's quick feet and pass released Jonathan de Guzman who eventually found Angel Rangel, who couldn't fire his shot past Szczesny in goal.
Swansea continued to impose themselves on their opponents much to the frustration of the home crowd. With 20 minutes on the clock, Michu almost played in Dyer, before Jenkinson retrieved the ball and passed into empty space without a teammate near by. At that point it was only the Swansea fans singing.
The first signs of Arsenal starting to wake from their slumber came as Gervinho found room down the left after 25 minutes, and following an exchanging with Wilshere who laid the ball off to Jenkinson, the Ivorian came within inches of nodding the ball home from the resulting cross.
That appeared to stir the home side and their fans as Wilshere burst forward to find Podolski in the box. The German failed to get a clean shot away, but it was enough in the context of the game at that point to get the Emirates crowd fired up. Minutes later, Cazorla really should have done better with his header, but the signs were that Arsenal were finding their feet.
Half hour into the game saw Swansea create another opening, as Michu rose to nod the ball beyond the Arsenal defensive line, with the scampering Dyer evading two tackles to race through clean on goal. His shot was blocked by a last ditch tackle from the recovering Vermaelen.
The Gunners struggled to get to grips with the imperious Michu for much of the game, and in the first half gave the Spaniard far too much space to control the ball and rove forwards. It was a glimpse of things to come.
36 minutes in and Mikel Arteta bundled over Michu on the very edge of the box. Guzman stepped up to take it and curled his effort inches over the bar.
All the warning signs for Arsenal were there but there was no cohesive response from Arsene Wenger's men.
Knocked confidence from recent results or just heavy legs after games in quick succession perhaps, but the home fans weren't in a forgiving mood. When Walcott tried to latch on to a fizzed through ball two minutes from the end of the first half, only for his control to let him down, the home fans had seen enough and went in search of a warming half-time tea.
Whatever Wenger said at half time must have had a profound effect as his men emerged much the better team, and not long after proceedings were back under way, Wilshere wiggled free in the box to tee up Cazorla who tested Gerhard Tremmel in the Swansea goal for the first time.
Walcott was the next to try his luck before Gervinho saw his run stopped dead in its tracks by a Swansea wall on the cusp of the area. Referee Mark Clatteburg waved away his vivid penalty protests.
Italy Schecter fired back for Swansea with their first shot in anger in the second half, but Arsenal were in the ascendency.
Arsenal stuttered and backfired as the searched for some consistency, and it was Cazorla who was at the heart of the action and trying to drive his side forward.
His deflected effort from 20 yards had Tremmel briefly worried 15 minutes into the second half, but the German ‘keeper eventually clutched the ball comfortably enough.
While Arsenal remained on the front foot, Swansea looked a threat mainly through their twin peaks Michu and Ki.
Rangel forced a good save from Szczesny following a slalom lope up the pitch from Michu, before the same man also forced an uncomfortable save at his near post for Arsenal's Polish 'keeper soon after.
Cazorla continued to try and pick the lock but couldn’t break through. The Gunners looked to freshen things up with under half hour remaining as Olivier Giroud and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain entered the fray in place of Gervinho and the anonymous Podolski after 67 minutes.
Arsenal's early half impetus had all but vanished with twenty minutes left as Swansea tried their luck from range. The newly arrived Luke Moore earned his side a corner, which led to nothing while at he other end Giroud's turn and shot was snuffed out at its source.
Arsenal tried to move forward and were denied another penalty as Giroud tumbled under a tackle from Chico Flores after a wayward back pass. Clattenburg was unmoved once more and the angst at the Emirates went up another notch.
Minutes before, a misunderstanding saw Szczesny and Jenkinson at each other’s throats. This was turning into an uncomfortable afternoon in north London.
The appearance of Tomas Rosicky for the first time this season prompted the volume to rise and it remained at that level, although not for the right reasons as more groans followed another spurned chance to break.
With the game entering the final ten minutes it was Swansea who now appeared the most potent, as first Dwight Tiendalli worked his way through but saw his shot saved by Sczcesny at the near post, before Moore's mazy run almost created an opening.
Arsenal tried in vain to snatch a goal but Vermaelen's powerful header from Oxlade-Chamberlain's cross was too close to Tremmel. With both sides looking capable of scoring what would likely by a match winner, it was the away team who finally got the breakthrough thanks to a mistake at the heart of the Arsenal defence.
With 88 minutes on the clock, Michu ran at both Mertesacker and Vermaelen after some neat build up play. Fortune was on his side as he strode forward before the ball ricocheted off Mertesacker to fall kindly into Moore's path, who dropped in a simple pass to allow the former Rayo Vallecano man to do the rest with a sumptuous finish from inside the area.
The boos from the exiting Arsenal fans must have been heard by Wenger, who rocked uncomfortably in his chair.
If there was any chance of a late Arsenal revival all hope was soon snuffed out as Jenkinson was disposed by Dyer to allow the ball to roll clear for Michu once more. The Spaniard made no mistake with his finish to pile the misery on Arsenal and thier French manager. With full-time came the inevitable poisonous outpouring from the enraged home crowd, who were baying for blood.
The joy of a north London derby win little more than two weeks ago must seem a lifetime away for Wenger and his disillusioned men, who now sit in a lowly 10th place, five points adrift of Spurs in 4th. They have plenty of work to do ahead of a Christmas period which could make, or more likely on the basis of this showing, break their season.