Swansea vs. Arsenal: 6 Things We Learned
Arsenal beat Swansea 2-1 in a thrilling match at the Liberty Stadium that saw the Swans get a late goal after Serge Gnabry and Aaron Ramsey had scored for the Gunners.
Swansea started the better side, dominating Arsenal for long stretches of the first half. Whatever Arsene Wenger said to his team at halftime worked wonders, though, as the second half developed precisely as the first had not: Arsenal ran rampant en route to their two goals.
The Gunners have now won eight straight road games (tying a club record) and once again sit atop the Premier League. Let's look at six things we learned from the match.
Gnabry Is Serge-ing
Serge Gnabry must be one of the fittest footballers on the planet.
After exerting himself during Arsenal's 120-minute midweek triumph over West Brom to the point that he could barely walk, Arsene Wenger determined that he was up for another start against Swansea.
If one was not aware of the above, it would not have been apparent that he had played for weeks.
After starting a bit slowly, Gnabry became an absolute force. He surged through the midfield and up and down his wing throughout the game, and he was confident enough to take corners ahead of Mesut Ozil.
His exertions deservedly culminated in his first senior goal.
Aaron Ramsey Never Stops
Aaron Ramsey did not waste the opportunity to continue his splendid form in his return to Wales.
There was, of course, the tireless running around the pitch and harrying of defenders when not in possession that fans are accustomed to seeing by now. Ramsey's technical quality and ability to pick a pass in tight areas is also quite remarkable.
More importantly, though, his play in front of goal is obviously that of a man who is swimming in the elixir of confidence.
He was not afraid to have a pop at goal from outside the box during the first half, and when he received the ball in a tight position close to goal, he had no compunction about taking the shot that needed to be taken. In doing so, he sealed the victory for Arsenal.
Swansea Should Be a Top-Seven Side
As Arsene Wenger would say, Swansea played with a bit less physical intensity in the second half—at least until they got their goal.
But during most of the first half, the Swans outplayed Arsenal at their own game, passing and moving in little triangles and reading the intentions of every teammate to carve their way through Arsenal.
Their ingenuity and technical quality are that of a side that can truly compete for a position that will earn them European football and then succeed when they make it there. It will be interesting to see how Swansea do in the Europa League this season.
Arsenal Have Solved Their Defensive Problems
Can you remember seeing Arsenal defend a tight lead against a superb attacking threat as effectively as they did against Swansea?
Laurent Koscielny led the back four—and the midfield, when they were engaged in the defensive effort—with aplomb and was extremely active wherever the ball was.
After Swansea pulled within a goal, the entire team dropped back and put in a unified effort that largely stymied an opposition that was empowered by the zeal of the crowd.
There was none of the palpable nervousness that permeated Arsenal sides in years past.
Arsenal Have Solved Their Wojciech Szczesny Problem
Remember the opening day of the season, when Wojciech Szczesny was so thoroughly immature and volatile that many suggested replacing him with Lukasz Fabianski?
Well, I do, but only because I strained.
Szczesny was the cornerstone of Arsenal's defensive lockdown in the final minutes of the game. He was extremely composed and collected whenever a ball was lofted into the box, and he forged confidence in his defenders by authoritatively commanding his penalty box.
The Pole can not be held at all liable for conceding Swansea's goal, and he will almost certainly retain his place in the team as long as he keeps this up.
Arsenal Are Contenders in a Wide-Open Title Race
The Premier League table tells a jarring and unfamiliar story: Manchester United are languishing in the bottom half of the table, below newly promoted Cardiff City, while Arsenal are two points clear at the top.
There is obviously a ton of football to be played between now and mid-May, but it appears that the title race is wide open.
And Arsenal—even before Mesut Ozil's arrival, but especially now that he is in red and white—do not look like they will be scrambling during the second half of the season to make up for their foundering in the first half. By beating a Swansea side that have given them problems several times in the past and looked like they could do so again, Arsenal took a major step toward proving their title credentials.