Swansea completed the league double over Arsenal for the first time since the 1980s, an outcome that looked unlikely given Arsenal’s control of the game up until the one vital moment, the only goal in the game.
Arsene Wenger was visibly frustrated with his team, more so for their mistakes at either end of the pitch rather than the performance overall. Speaking to the Arsenal website, Wenger highlighted Swansea’s defensive approach and how disappointed he was that a side showing little ambition for 85 minutes of the game managed to leave the Emirates with all three points.
“We played against a team with a 4-6 formation, didn’t play and you’re always frustrated when they manage to get away with a win,” he said. “On the other hand, we showed a lot of quality but were not very good in our finishing and guilty of giving away a mistake”
Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott had perhaps the best chances to give the Gunners the lead, with the ball falling to the Chilean in the box only for him to fire it straight at returning goalkeeper Fabianski with Walcott proceeding to do the same with the rebound.
Nacho Monreal was also guilty of spurning a good opportunity. The left back found himself with space in the Swansea box and with just a little bit of pressure from Swansea’s right back Jazz Richards, he was unable to make the most of the opening he had created for his team.
The Swansea goal was almost an exact copy of their winner at the Liberty Stadium earlier in the season. Jefferson Montero, who had hardly touched the ball all game, used his pace to get a yard on Arsenal’s full back and stand the ball up for Gomis to head home.
There was initial confusion regarding the goal as it didn’t seem to cross the line. Gomis’ header was far less emphatic than in the first game and it appeared Ospina had managed to claw it away, only for referee Kevin Friend to signal a goal had been scored, all thanks to the trusty new gadget officials have been sporting on their wrist this season.
The match proved goal-line technology was an important addition to the Premier League, but despite this new technology having a hand in defeating Arsenal, it was their demons of old that condemned them to defeat this time out.
HAUNTED BY THE PAST
The first half was played at a snail’s pace and Arsenal failed to register a shot on target. The second half saw Arsenal fly out the blocks, bombarding Swansea with waves of attacks and managing to test Fabianski nine times in just 30 minutes of play.
However, no matter how many chances they created and how much of the ball they had, their toothlessness in front of goal meant Swansea always had the chance to snatch a late victory, an opportunity they duly gobbled up.
This match was very much reminiscent of the Arsenal of old, dominating possession and large parts of the game only for it all to come crashing down on them in the form of a last gasp winner for their opposition.
They called Fabianski into action on many occasions, and although his performance was impressive, he was never really asked to make a string of difficult saves, he simply did his job. However, the Arsenal players did not.
In failing to score and switching off at the other end as well, Arsenal's old habits came back to haunt them. Swansea sentenced them to a defeat in an all too familiar manner, made worse by a former employee playing a huge role in it.
THE TWITTER HORDE
In typical fashion, the more fickle of Arsenal fans began to rain down on many Arsenal players for their performance. The 10 match unbeaten run was quickly forgotten, with attacks launched on Wenger for the team’s slow start and Ospina for his part in the Swansea goal.
Few were eager to criticise main man Alexis Sanchez, and instead looked to berate Theo Walcott instead. The fact is that both players were equally poor in front of goal yet the unhealthy tendency of some Arsenal fans to prey on the weak, that’s to say the players who are returning from injury or whose future at the club looks unclear, rang true.
Arsene Wenger was obviously angry with his side, but unlike the bloodthirsty keyboard warriors, he recognised the collective mistake and didn’t launch an attack on any one particular player. Arsenal were poor in front of goal, something that applies to everyone on the pitch.
From Walcott to Alexis, through to Monreal. The truth remains that Arsenal created the chances to win the match, but failed to do so, a combination of poor finishing and solid goalkeeping blocking their path to victory.
Wenger also highlighted the defensive errors leading to the Swansea goal and highlighting the need to remain focussed for the full 90 minutes. A problem that had plagued Arsenal in the past but had seemingly been remedied in the past few months.
“When you are a defender you cannot give a goal away the way we did with five minutes to go. It’s impossible.”
The defeat is a bitter pill to swallow but in reality is just a small blip in what as been a sensational finish to Arsenal’s season. A win at Old Trafford on Sunday all but guarantees them automatic Champions League qualification, a luxury they have been without in recent seasons.
They also have the chance to retain the F.A. Cup, facing Aston Villa in a final that, bar another return to their old ways, should see them come out the other side with trophy in hand. Arsenal fans need to refrain from launching such scathing attacks after one poor performance, especially when in reality this was not even that poor. Garry Monk's side executed a game plan to perfection, whilst Arsenal players made mistakes.
Football is a cruel game and just one can be the difference between defeat and taking all three points. Monday’s match, unfortunately for Arsenal, was one of those games.