Arsenal: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal, Coquelin, Ramsey, Ozil, Alexis, Campbell, Giroud
Subs: Ospina, Chambers, Gibbs, Elneny, Flamini, Walcott, Welbeck
Arsenal showed why they won’t and can’t be champions, allowing Swansea to come from behind to win 2-1 at the Emirates this evening.
Arsene Wenger made three changes from the team that lost to Man Utd with Per Mertesacker, Joel Campbell and Olivier Giroud coming in to replace Laurent Koscielny (absent with a small calf problem), Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott.
Having seen how a high press can unsettle the Gunners, Swansea started by doing just that, but it was Olivier Giroud who had the first attempt on goal in the 3rd minute, his shot blocked by the visiting defence. A flowing move involving Campbell saw Giroud presented with another chance, but his right-footed effort didn’t cause Swansea any problems.
Arsenal continued their bright start and almost went ahead in the 10th minute. Mesut Ozil set up Sanchez with a smart back header, he missed the volley, but kept the ball, cracked a shot which rebounded off the post and into the arms of Fabianksi.
The opener wasn’t long coming though. Coquelin did well in midfield to keep the ball alive. He fed Alexis who clipped the ball behind the defence, and Campbell sliding along the turf directed the ball past Fabianksi into the far corner. 1-0.
Campbell set up Ozil for a shot which was blocked, before Hector Bellerin tested Fabianski from 25 yards, the former Arsenal keeper taking two attempts to hold onto the ball. It had been all Arsenal, but in the 31st minute Swansea were level.
There looked to be a foul on Ozil as Cech played the ball long, nothing was given, and as the ball came back in, Bellerin saw Routledge run off him and slot the ball past Cech to make it 1-1. Arsene Wenger was furious on the sideline and with some justification, but the goal stood.
The Gunners should have been ahead again in the 41st minute. After a corner was cleared, Ramsey fizzed in a beautiful ball which Mertesacker nodded it back to Giroud. The Frenchman took it first time with his right foot but saw the ball cannon back off the bar when he should have scored. It meant the teams went in level at the break, but there’s no doubt Arsenal should have been ahead.
The visitors made a half-time change, bringing off Ki and putting on the dangerous Gylfi Sigurdsson. There was early penalty box action at both ends, with Bellerin staying on his feet under a high velocity challenge from Routledge, before Alexis had another shot blocked after good work from Campbell again.
A long ball from Alexis presented a chance to Ozil to swing with his left foot but he miscued, a low cross from Bellerin just didn’t have enough weight on to cause problems, and then an Alexis shot fizzed just wide after he picked it up from an Ozil corner.
The Chilean’s form has been poor lately, and when a beautiful Ozil free kick found him 8 yards out, that he missed the ball completely sums up how things are going for him right now. And when Arsene Wenger made his first change, it was Joel Campbell who made way for Danny Welbeck – a decision greeted by boos from the stands.
Those boos might have turned to absolute mutiny had Sigurdsson put Swansea ahead just seconds after the change. He rounded Petr Cech, but somehow blasted his shot wide as he had teammates inside waiting for a tap-in.
The goal Arsenal so desperately needed almost came in the 68th minute when Alexis saw a free kick deflect off the top of the ball and come back off the bar, the third time the Gunners had hit the woodwork in the game at that point. It felt as if the missed chances would prove costly, and so it was.
When Alexis lost possession again, Gabriel conceded a free kick in a dangerous area. Sigurdsson sent it in, no Arsenal player got anywhere near it, Cech couldn’t get near it, Williams bundled it over the line from close range. 1-2.
Alexis was then hauled off, replaced by Walcott, as Arsenal then looked for an equaliser rather than a winner. Giroud set up Monreal who hit the ball over the bar, Walcott had a header which was easily saved, and Arsenal looked broken and toothless as they sought a goal. This is not a team with the character or the footballing ability to be champions.
Even with 5 minutes of injury time it didn’t come, Arsenal have lost three in a row now, but tonight’s loss against relegation fodder just shows how bad things are.
A dismal night ahead of a North London derby.