Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Flamini, Arteta, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Cazorla, Giroud
Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Bellerin, Kallstrom, Sanogo, Gnabry, Podolski
Arsenal’s season lurched from one bad game to another with a heartbreaking 2-2 draw with Swansea at the Emirates tonight. Arsene Wenger made just one change from the team that was embarrassed against Chelsea, bringing in Mathieu Flamini in place of Lukas Podolski. Update: Obviously Vermaelen for Koscielny too.
The manager clearly wanted to give his players a chance of redemption, but in the first half he certainly didn’t get it as the Gunners went in behind at the break.
The goal came in the 11th minute when Wilfriend Bony got on the end of a Taylor cross from the Swansea left, rising above Thomas Vermaelen and planting an unstoppable header in at the near post. Just what Arsenal didn’t need.
Despite the crowd trying to rouse the team, we struggled to create much at all. A Mertesacker header flew into the side netting from a corner, and late in the half Santi Cazorla forced a good save from Michel Vorm as he twisted and turned to find some space for himself.
At the other end, Mathieu Flamini spared further blushes, getting back inside the area to stop a Swansea break which saw them 4 on 3 and from which they could easily have scored.
The half-time whistle was greeted with a smattering of boos around the ground, the promised response from the players was nowhere to be seen.
There were no changes at half-time as Arsenal looked to get back into the game, and they started the second period on the front foot with the crowd urging them on.
A Kieran Gibbs cross played into the perfect area should have created something for the Gunners, but there was no Arsenal player in the box, while Michu miscued a half-chance at the other end.
Another Gibbs cross rebounded off Flamini and went just wide before Arsene Wenger made his first change, replacing Oxlade-Chamberlain with Lukas Podolski.
Tomas Rosicky then shot over from outside the box, before Michu spurned a good chance to get a second Swansea goal, heading over from 10 yards when the visitors found space down the Arsenal left.
Arsenal huffed and puffed but the problems were summed up when Arteta did well in midfield, looked up for somebody wide of him to play the ball to, and saw nobody. The Gunners were crowded into the centre of the pitch with little width, giving Arsenal no outlet and making it easy for Swansea to defend against.
But in the 73rd minute Arsenal were level. Kieran Gibbs did brilliantly to get beyond his opposite full back, he pulled it back and Lukas Podolski prodded the ball home from close range.
Less than a minute later, the German turned provider, putting in a wicked ball from the left hand side which rolled past the Swansea defender, allowing Olivier Giroud to poke home from close range and take the lead.
It was an amazing turnaround, especially as Arsenal hadn’t looked like scoring at all, but a very welcome one all the same.
Arsene Wenger then gave a debut to January loan signing Kim Kallstrom who replaced Rosicky in the 79th minute as the reds tried to hang onto their lead. Bony had a good chance to score with a free header after Podolski squandered possession in the Swansea half.
It was nervy stuff and the visitors found space behind when Cazorla failed to track a run but the cross was blocked. Sanogo replaced goalscorer Giroud in the 88th minute, but just before injury time there was heartbreak for Arsenal as Swansea equalised in a gutting way.
Swansea broke into the Arsenal box, Mertesacker got a touch on the ball, Szczesny then got a toe to clear it but instead it rebounded off Flamini and into the net. It was hugely unfortunate, and coming so late in the game there was no way back for Arsenal.
It makes the weekend’s game with Man City even more important, but Arsenal will have to improve massively to get anything from that game based on tonight’s performance.