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Arsenal 1 Swansea City 0

Arsenal 1 Swansea City 0

After the trials and tribulations of Manchester and the breathless fallout of the transfer window, married to another tedious international break, this game felt like something of a clean slate for Arsenal. The atmosphere inside the ground was notably perkier before kickoff, with Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker making their debuts, whilst Park Ju-Young, Andre Santos and Yossi Benayoun on the bench. The lingering air around the club seemed to have been lifted, with all eyes focussing forward now- as the legend beneath the club crest invites.

Initially, the Gunners fed on the feel good factor and almost took the lead inside 55 seconds. What was notable about Arsenal`s midfield was that Arteta and Ramsey swapped roles constantly throughout the game, with Arteta happy to sit back and dictate from the centre circle, allowing Ramsey to furrow forward- and vice versa. But inside 45 seconds, Arteta pressed Agustin high up the pitch and robbed him of possession, before slotting a through ball to the onrushing Ramsey. For reasons that escape me, Ramsey delayed his shot with only Vorm to beat and bafflingly allowed the ball to travel slightly away from his body, forcing him to slice a gilt edged chance high, wide and not very handsome. A very poor miss.

Yet Swansea, with their fleet footed wing duo of Dyer and Sinclair, offered plenty for Arsenal`s full backs to think about. But it was Agustin who patrolled over to the right flank and sent in a conniving cross to the penalty area, Danny Graham edged just ahead of Per Mertesacker and toe poked towards goal. Szczesny brilliantly adjusted his feet, changed direction and flung himself low down for a cracking stop. But the Gunners still looked very much on top and were again inches away from taking the lead when Arshavin`s clever through ball saw Walcott burn past Taylor through onto the Swans goal, Vorm got the merest of touches to Walcott`s finish, which slowed the ball`s progress towards the line sufficiently to see Stephen Caulker clear off the line.

What was quite remarkable was that, even in that life or death, goal line clearance moment, Caulker still wouldn`t use his left foot for that clearance, instead twisting his body to use his right and happily colliding with the post and hurting himself. It beggars belief that a professional footballer won`t use his weak foot to make the most unostentatious of clearances. He even preferred to cause himself physical pain than to use his left foot. Gibbs was similarly guilty in this regard later in the half, ignoring a simple pass with his right foot, preferring to put Szczesny under immense pressure in his own six yard area. Luckily for Gibbs, Szczesny was able to Cruyff turn his way out of the danger.

Swansea continued to provide enough off a threat to keep everyone alert. Neil Taylor`s cross from the left fooled everybody and rolled heart stoppingly across Swansea`s six yard box. Arsenal`s early verve rather sagged, with Caulker and Ashley Williams providing a sturdy Maginot line in front of the Swansea goal. But Arsenal did get their breakthrough in surreal circumstances five minutes before half time. Walcott turned on the edge of the area and his left foot shot deflected into the arms of Vorm. In his anxiety to get Swansea moving, Vorm had a momentary brain fart and rolled the ball against the legs of his own defender. I really can`t make out who he was actually trying to get the ball to, but in any case it ricocheted very nicely into the path of Andrey Arshavin, who nonchalantly rolled the ball in from a very tight angle, for his first goal since March 19. It was a slice of serendipity that the club has badly missed in its opening games.

The second half saw Arsenal, still scarred by early season results, retreat into their shells slightly. This in turn encouraged Sinclair and Dyer onto the Gunners back four. Early in the second half, Sinclair found space in a central role, Mertesacker backed off and Sinclair progressed to the edge of Arsenal`s area, before Laurent Koscielny cynically took him out. Sinclair clipped the crossbar with the resulting free kick. Not to be outdone, it was Arsenal`s turn to strike the woodwork. Arshavin found van Persie on the edge of the Swans area; he brilliantly rolled Williams and Gunter, eking out space for a right foot shot which hit the outside of the post. A good example of a player that worked on his weaker foot to his advantage.

Sagna`s cross caused consternation in the Welsh side`s penalty area just a minute later, with Williams and Vorm leaving the ball to one another, but van Persie didn`t gamble at the back post and the ball drifted wide. At this point, Wenger was rather forced into a change by the threat of Sinclair and Dyer. Despite being one of Arsenal`s more potent attacking threats, Arshavin was withdrawn for Yossi Benayoun. The manager explained afterwards that this was as Benayoun offered something "more dynamic." Which is a diplomatic way of saying that "he`s not a lazy bastard like Arshavin is." In fact, Arsenal`s deference to the visitors` threat showed in all substitutions, with the more physical Chamakh on for van Persie and the less enterprising Coquelin replacing Frimpong.

Chamakh`s physicality very nearly bought another goal too, when Ramsey`s searching pass found Gibbs on the left, he pinged in an accurate cross which Chamakh climbed above Williams to head goalwards, only for Vorm to save. The last 15 minutes were edgy and tense, with the Gunners dropping back and "trying to get over the line" in the manager`s words. Quite understandable given the events of our last two league games. Swansea nearly snatched an equaliser right at the death when Szczesny, for once, made a meal of his attempt to punch Gunter`s corner under pressure from Williams. The ball fell to Graham inside the six yard box with Szczesny grounded, but he could only swivel and send the ball over the bar, to the collective relief of the chanting Arsenal hordes.

The final whistle was greeted with great relief. The performance was far from the most fluid or fulminating, but it was unlikely to ever be. Confidence takes time to rebuild and we were always going to have to scrap and work our way back. This is an important first step, a building block rather than the plateau of our season. There will be plenty of time to reforge that pyrotechnic football, but for now we need points. Badly. We got them, by hook or by crook. We might be slightly fortunate that Swansea don`t really have a striker of any note and the goal was clearly a slice of fortune. But when you look at the first goal we conceded in the Liverpool game, it was fortune due to us. Not that that will be of any comfort to Swansea, who can be pleased with an enterprising performance that gave their hosts plenty to chew on. Particularly on the fingernails. This game is money in the bank; the win is behind us, so let`s move Forward. LD.

13.SZCZESNY, 3.SAGNA, 4.MERTESACKER, 6.KOSCIELNY, 28.GIBBS, 26.FRIMPONG (39.Coquelin `73), 16.RAMSEY, 8.ARTETA, 14.WALCOTT, 23.ARSHAVIN (30.Benayoun `62), 10.v.PERSIE (29.Chamakh `80). Unused; 9.J-Y.Park, 11.A.Santos, 20.Djourou, 21.Fabianski.

Follow me on twitter @LittleDutchVA

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

Writer:Tim Stillman
Date:Sunday September 11 2011
Time: 10:29AM


Still slightly worrying that yesterday's victory felt like a gift from Lady Luck than a true statement of intent. Ramsey and Walcott did not perform, and Frimpong really did look as if he'd been scarred by his red card. But on the plus side Szczesny looked well nigh impregnable and will no doubt soon be on MMan $hitty's shopping list. At the moment We have a good keeper on our hands, something weve not been able to say for a while. When Gervinho, Jack and TV return we'll be able to guage whether this team can gell in the way we all hope.
Wyn Mills
11/09/2011 10:50:00
Top write up, we have a long long way to go before I can relax again. I think I wrote when Man city was acquired by the Middle East mob and the millions spent that this would be the end of football as we know it in England. Well it looks as if it will come true. When a club spends almost half a billion pounds on players and (with the possibility of spending the same amount again) footballers willing to sell their souls for money; then football will be the loser. Once they have destroyed the game I love and they become bored I really think it will be all over. But that of course is only IMO.
11/09/2011 10:57:00
arteta & benayoun were very dynamic as wenger put it. it will take time for the midfield to gel but the defense was still very shaky. walcott & arshavin seldom track back when we were countered. van persie was also left rather isolated. it has been the case for all our previous games. there were not much penetration & and lacked of cohesion in defense. basically the game was concentrated in the middle of the park for most of the time where possessions were won and lost. it was quite worrying because players were neither committing themselves in defending nor attacking. nevertheless, 3 points is 3 points. hope we can build on it.
11/09/2011 11:06:00
Wyn Mills, when Gervinho, Wilshere and Vermaelen return knowing your luck with injuries Van Persie, Song and Walcott will be injured instead :P
11/09/2011 11:10:00
Why would we want a second-rate Polish keeper when we've already got the best keeper in the League Wyn Mills? I see the bitterness runs deep if you need to mention City on an article discussing your teams fortunate win over Swansea.
11/09/2011 12:12:00
We didnt look like scoring to be honest as we were not creating chances. Cesc's departure means we need to find a new style of play. Walcott huffed and puffed but he just hasnt got it on the wing for me. I remember the day of Henry when he would make minced meat of the opposition right back. Theo seems to have got some attitude now though but that aint enough. Still unconvinced by Gibbs as 1st choice left back. Happy that chance came to Arshavin. I'm quite sure Theo would have shanked it. We'll take the 3 points for now.
11/09/2011 12:28:00
Filthcolumnblue - there's no bitterness towards Man *****-t-y at Arsenal. Congratulations though on buying success, I'm sure it makes you feel very proud. Any old fool can buy a load of players. Now off you go, go back to supporting a club that pays Wayne Bridge 4.7m a year for training by himself. That's what I call class.
11/09/2011 12:31:00
Oh No! lickle old City have ruined the spiteful vile Gunners - Pathetic it was you lot that ruined the English game many years ago with your all foreign teams! - You do realise weve given you over 70m in the last 3 years and your owners have put the lot in there pockets! - So once again who is ruining footy by taking all the money out of the clubs? and saddling them said clubs with HUGE debts oh thats right the Arsenal and manure boards!
11/09/2011 12:35:00
I think Wenger should consider playing Arshavin more centrally. He needs to be closer to RvP and largely absolved of defensive duties because he's clearly not up to it or for it. Gibbs inexperience means he needs someone ahead of him that can support him defensively. As fans, we probably need to forget about what happens this season and just get behind the team every game and see where we end up. Now let's get a good result in Dortmund, based on a good defensive performance.
11/09/2011 12:36:00
markmcfc - the only thing you're ruining is the game of football, and inside you know it.
11/09/2011 12:37:00
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