Previous results against Swansea have been interesting games, with the results of the last three games being a win, a draw and a loss. This was a must-win game for us as we need to ensure we are still firmly in the race for fourth spot. With Everton beating a lackluster Manchester City 2-0 earlier on in the day, the result was even more crucial as Everton moved above us. I will not lie, I expected a Swansea city goal. I expected it so much so, that our game was in my Goals Galore accumulator. To be clear, I expected a win, but I expected a 3-1 win to us. What happened, was even greater, for the second game in a week, we scored two goals and kept a clean sheet. Remarkable. Our defence has been a major talking point amongst ourselves and in the general media throughout this season, leaking too many goals and who are the right CB pairing being the main points. Arsene decided to keep Lukas Fabianski in goal and Laurent Koscielny at CB with Per Mertesacker partnering him. This is welcome with me, I love Koscielny, as I’ve noted before. The thing I am most happy with from a defensive point of view in the last two games are that the defence is TALKING again. We are moving forward in a line, dropping back in a line and all the while communicating together
In midfield, Abou Diaby is such a monumental cog in our midfield engine in my eyes and to see him playing again is excellent. I understand some of his criticism as when watching him he can seem problematic. However, he won 3/3 tackles, made 3 interceptions made 1/1 clearances, won 1/1 headers, had a pass success rate of 89% and took the ball past his man 4/5 times he tried to do so. The only negative I had of his game yesterday was that his final pass wasn’t quite there and this is reflected in his 89% pass completion, which still is quite high. His movement is Viera-esque and if we can keep him fit, I believe we have a great midfielder – the only problem being his fitness. Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain, who I have previously said could benefit from a possible loan at one of the mid-table teams had a stormer. I’m not AOC’s biggest fan as I think he blows hot and cold, but yesterday he was scolding. Smashing the bar twice in the first half, he had a good game, linking well on the wing when he drifted and used his speed and first touch well in the middle of the pitch when he was stationed there. Santi Cazorla had a solid game too, with some nice touches and passes between himself and the rest of the squad. His speed and technique were on show for all to see again and had a good chance with a half-volley in the first half, before squaring the ball to AOC for his shot to skim the top of the bar just before half time.
Olivier Giroud had an afternoon of mixed sorts, not really creating much for himself, but dragging defenders away with his movement and chasing back to ensure his team regained possession when the ball wasn’t with us. Theo Walcott on the other hand had an awful afternoon, with only one run that springs to mind. When he was eventually substituted, he looked perplexed which I couldn’t understand. If you do nothing in the game, expect to be taken off. When Theo is on his game, he is virtually unplayable and he is more than capable of doing the unexpected; but yesterday was not his day. Even Gerviniho came on and scored, which is great for us as it sealed the victory, but could also be great for him as his confidence will receive a well needed boost.
Aside from the victory, the debate on our back five still seems to be there, with some calling for Sagna & Gibbs inclusion and some calling for Szczesny back in goal. For now, I say keep Fabianski, Keep Jenkinson and keep Monreal in the team. Vermaelen doesn’t merit his inclusion right now as he hasn’t had the best of seasons with us to say the least. Jenkinson is improving more and more with each game, so why not let him have a run in the team? It can only be more experience for him and this is what he needs. Monreal should also keep his place in my eyes as Gibbs is just returning from injury and there is no need to rush him back when we have a more than adequate back up for him. Szczesny should also be rested as this may focus him on his goalkeeping abilities and talents, rather than his Cryuff turns on the edge of his box, while also showing him that he isn’t as good as he thinks he is … YET.
The last eight games of the season will show us how tough our character is. If we can achieve another season in the Champions League after some of the worst displays I’ve seen us string together, then I will take some comfort in the fact that we can still qualify, even when we play horrendous football. It will also prove to me even further that there is no other manager apart from Arsene Wenger who should be at the helm of this great football club.
But that’s another discussion, for another time.
Victoria Concordia Crescit.
As always, comments, discussion or feedback at @RyArsenal