Arsenal

Arsenal vs. Swansea City: 6 Things We Learned from Gunners' Undeserved Draw

Willie GannonSenior Writer IMarch 25, 2014

Arsenal vs. Swansea City: 6 Things We Learned from Gunners' Undeserved Draw

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Arsenal's Premier League title challenge is over after Mathieu Flamini's last-minute own goal gifted Swansea City a 2-2 draw after the Welsh team had outplayed the Gunners for most of the match.

    Swansea took the lead in their first real attack of the game after Wilfred Bony's stunning header nearly took the net off the posts. From there, the away side dictated the game and never looked in danger. Arsenal were insipid all night, but somehow conspired to score two goals in a minute through Lukas Podolski and the anonymous Olivier Giroud.

    The Swans, not to be outdone, fought back ans scored a deserved equalizer, but it came in the most farcical of instances when the ball bounced around Arsenal's six-yard box before Flamini's final touch took it into the net.

    The goal came in the last minute, but the game did not end there. Swansea pushed for a deserved winner and in added time Jonathan De Guzman broke into Arsenal's half unattended with the goal at his mercy.

    Unfortunately for De Guzman, the referee, Lee Probert, chose then to blow the final whistle. To no surprise, Swansea's players then surrounded the ref to find out why he finished the game. Under the letter of the law, it is hard to argue with the ref, but he did choose a strange moment to finish the game.

    Arsene Wenger had looked for his team to give a huge response following their humiliating 6-0 capitulation to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last weekend. 

    If anything, the pressure of having to respond seemed to weigh too heavily on some Arsenal shoulders. Bacary Sagna was not his normal self and seemed a disinterested party on the right while Santi Cazorla did not seem to want possession as much as he normally does.

    The Gunners played as if they were meeting for the first time and seemed uncertain of what to do as Swansea allowed them to own possession.

    The away-side, set up with a defensive-minded 4-4-1 formation, came to frustrate and to keep the crowd quiet. Despite Arsenal hogging possession and having plenty of opportunity to open up the Swans' defense, they offered the crowd no real reason to get behind their team. Their pedestrian style of play played straight into Swansea's hands.

    Swansea counter-attacked with great speed and scored on their first real attack. Left-back Neil Taylor's deep cross was met by Bony, who headed powerfully past a stranded Wojciech Szczesny to give Swansea the lead.

    The goal stunned Wenger, his team and the home crowd into complete silence. 

    The game continued in the same pattern for the rest of the half. When Arsenal left the pitch at half-time, their fans expected to see a rejuvenated team reappear for the second period, after a presumed half-time rollicking by their legendary French manager.

    Instead, they came out in the second 45 in exactly the same labored fashion.

    Swansea, once again, set about dictating the flow of the game and frustrating their illustrious opponents.

    Garry Monk's game plan appeared to be working perfectly up until 15 minutes from time when, quite out of the blue, Arsenal scored twice in the space of 66 seconds.

    In truth, this was the only 66 seconds of real quality the Gunners produced all night.

    The first came after a brilliant, surging run from Kieran Gibbs was poked home by Podolski. The German then turned provider for Giroud to slam home from close range to give Arsenal the lead.

    The relief in the ground was obvious and all of a sudden, the ground came to life.

    The relief, however, was short lived as Swansea immediately quieted the crowd with a number of Quickfire attacks.

    As the game counted game, the Swans launched a lightning-quick counter attack that resulted in Arsenal scoring the sloppiest of own goals as the away side claimed a deserved equalizer.

    Leon Britton, a hero in central midfield all night, broke through the heart of Arsenal's defense and moved in on goal. He was being tracked by Per Mertesacker and Flamini as Szczesny came racing out to close down his angles.

    The lanky German, Mertesacker, hooked a long leg around Britton and nicked the ball away, only to see the blow bounce off Szczesny's leg before it rebounded off Flamini into the open goal.

    The goal gave Swansea the goal they deserved and gives them real hope for the relegation battle.

    Arsenal, in comparison and at the other end of the table, receives no such favors for their title challenge, which is now well and truly over.

    Here, Bleacher Report offers six things we learned from Arsenal vs. Swansea...

Arsenal's Response Was Not What Anyone Wanted

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    Jan Kruger/Getty Images

    In the aftermath to Arsenal's embarrassing 6-0 defeat to Chelsea, Arsene Wenger eventually called for his team to give a response.

    The Frenchman did not give a post-match press conference after the heavy loss in his 1,000th game as manager at the Gunners. He then followed that up by not giving a pre-match press conference for the Swansea City clash either.

    When he did become available, he urged his team to respond against Garry Monk's underperforming team, as per Sky Sports"

    What is important is to give a response on Tuesday night and that is it. I don't believe it is the time to talk too much about (what went wrong).

    The players are deeply disappointed as we all are, but now I think let us prepare for the next game.

    We can win the next game, so that is what we have to focus on now and give a strong response.

    We are in a situation now where after such a disappointment that the next game becomes vital.

    It would be fair to say that Arsenal's first-half response was about as limp as a week-old lettuce.

    Their second-half display was not all that much better, but they did manage to spring to life when they scored twice in quick succession.

    However, all Swansea had to do to stem any chance of the Gunners getting on top was to up the tempo of their play.

    When they did, they created multiple goal scoring chances and eventually got what they, at the very least, deserved, unlike Arsenal.

Wilfried Bony Could Play for Any Premier League Team, Even Arsenal...

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Wilfried Bony signed for Swansea City from Vitesse Arnhem for £12 million last summer, as per BBC. Back then, only the most observant of European football fans knew who he was or what he was capable of.

    Now, after the best part of a season, it is obvious to all that Michael Laudrup signed a real diamond in the rough. Prior to tonight, Bony had scored 10 goals in 26 Premier League games. His first-half goal against Arsenal was a phenomenal headed effort that will only serve to increase his value.

    Technically gifted, mobile and as strong as an Ox, Bony is the epitome of the modern-day lone central striker. 

    Time and time again against Thomas Vermaelen and Per Mertesacker, he would take control of the ball and hold off the defender before either drawing a free kick or releasing one of his supporting teammates.

    The Ivory Coast international is also not afraid to put the boot in and drew a deserved yellow card after planting Mikel Arteta with a heavy challenge. Taking the card is part and parcel of the psychological chess game that takes place during matches. 

    Arteta moved around midfield for the rest of his game looking over his shoulder for another tackle.

    The Daily Star recently linked Bony with a £15 million move to Everton. On this evidence, another £5 million could be added to his transfer fee without anyone having to argue. 

    Arsenal could also do a lot worse than move for the World Cup-bound Ivorian international.

    He is faster and arguably stronger and more technical than Olivier Giroud.

    For a modest fee, Wenger, if he is kept by the club, would, most definitely, benefit from signing the striker.

Arsene Wenger Was Right to Bring Mathieu Flamini Back Despite Own Goal

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Arsene Wenger made the right decision in parachuting Mathieu Flamini back into central midfield, despite his catastrophic own goal.

    Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will develop into a top-class central player in the future. However, at this very moment in time, Arsenal need him higher up the pitch where he will do more damage to the opposition.

    Against Chelsea, Mikel Arteta was badly exposed.

    The Blues' midfield are highly mobile and close down opposition players so quickly. Arteta, never the quickest player on or off the ball, looked like a fish out of water.

    Arteta is not mobile and cannot cover ground quickly. Because he is so technically good, he also tends to delay his pass when he should release it.

    Against a team who hunt in packs like Chelsea, he was caught out.

    Flamini, on the other hand, introduced against the Pensioners at 4-0, is less technically gifted, but he releases the ball at a far quicker rate. Hence, he is not caught in possession as often.

    The downside of playing Flamini alongside Arteta is that creativity ultimately pays the price.

    On the night, the Frenchman was one of the Gunners' better performers.

    His own goal came in the unluckiest of ways after a number of deflections ended with him unknowingly knocking the ball into the back of the net.

    Arsenal need a player of Flamini's skill type if they are to defend properly. Their midfield were bypassed by Swansea time and time again, and if it were not for Flamini's intelligent defensive positional play, their central defenders would have been overrun.

Arsenal's Crowd Couldn't Get Going Because Their Team Rarely Did

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Sometimes the team need the crowd to lift them. Other times the crowd need the team to show them something in order to lift them.

    This was most definitely the case at the Emirates Stadium against Swansea City.

    Garry Monk's team took the sting out of the Gunners' forward momentum in a pedestrian first half from Arsene Wenger's team.

    Other than the odd "Arsenal, Arsenal" chant, the Emirates crowd offered nothing.

    On a night when their manager had called for a response from his team following the Chelsea postmortem, their fans needed to see the same.

    Lacking any real leaders or characters, even with the club captain Thomas Vermaelen back in the team, Arsenal were timid in their approach to the game.

    On a night when their fans needed a response, they responded in kind by turning the Emirates into a "library."

    If there was a leader to be found, it was in the unlikeliest of places. Kieran Gibbs, a real option for Roy Hodgson for left-back in Brazil this summer, was the man to step up.

    The England international won his personal battle with Johnathan De Guzman and worked his way into the game, unlike some of his teammates.

    He rose to the occasion and raised the crowd almost by himself.

    Gibbs' performance, however, was not enough.

Garry Monk Got His Tactics Right, Unlike Arsene Wenger

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    To say that Swansea City have underperformed this season would be a massive understatement. Michael Laudrup's sacking, as per ESPN, was something of a shock when the Dane departed in February.

    Former player Garry Monk was installed as the man to lead Swansea out of danger for the rest of the season. However, his run, heading to the Emirates, read as one win from nine with the Swans playing poorly and out of confidence.

    Monk set his team up to frustrate Arsenal. In the opening 11 minutes, before Wilfried Bony scored a tremendous header, Swansea only had 30 percent possession as per WhoScored.com. Swansea started with two firm banks of four with Bony playing very much as an isolated figure up front.

    In complete contrast to Chelsea, Swansea allowed Arsenal to hog possession and play on the counter-attack. The muted approach seemed to frustrate Arsenal and the home crowd, who responded in their own mute manner.

    For 75 minutes, until Arsenal scored twice in 66 seconds, Monk's team kept Arsenal at arm's length. Even after the goal, they dictated the ebb and flow of the game with intelligent possession.

    A goal down, Swansea upped the tempo and strode forward time and time again in the final 10 minutes. They eventually got their just rewards when Mathieu Flamini scored an own goal in the last minute.

    That goal effectively ended any slim chances the Gunners had of winning the title, although, in truth, that dream ended last Saturday against Chelsea.

Does Arsene Wenger Need to Take a Leaf From, Spurs Manager, Tim Sherwood's Book?

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Tim Sherwood famously called his team out after they capitulated against Chelsea. Speaking to the BBC after the game, Sherwood was brutal in his honesty:

    There's a lack of character, too many of them are too nice to each other and you need to show a bit more guts.

    You can't legislate for the capitulation—you can't have that.

    It hurts me and I won't forget about this when we hit the motorway, but some might.

    The following week, he added further fuel to the fire by saying that certain players were playing for their futures. Speaking to a Europa League press conference, as per Sky Sports, he said:

    There are a lot of players here now who are playing for their future and I think they realize that. I will have a good look at the whole squad and see who I need to keep and who I need to bring in.

    Let us now compare what Arsene Wenger said about his team when they capitulated against Chelsea. He told Sky Sports:

    It all went wrong and we failed completely on Saturday because we did not turn up with a performance.

    We just came out of two convincing results at Bayern Munich and at Tottenham with a very solid defensive performance, so you have to think that the defeat at Chelsea was an accident.

    How do you deal with the accident? You repair them, you repair the damage and you go for the next one.

    An accident has happened, that doesn't mean that you are not a good driver

    The choice of words by each manager is hugely important. Sherwood shifted the blame of the heavy defeat to his players. He called upon them, as professionals, to take more pride in their performances for the rest of the season.

    Wenger did not blame anything. He just said it was an accident, a one off. Except, we all know the manner of performance was not a one off. Like Spurs, the Gunners have also capitulated against Manchester City and Liverpool this season.

    On these first two occasions, Sherwood said nothing and kept the team talk in house. When it happened for a third time he broke the sanctity of the dressing room and went on TV to publicly tell his players what he thought of their performance.

    In many ways, this was a last roll of the dice by the Spurs-man.

    Wenger, on the other hand, has blamed outside sources for each of their significant defeats this season.

    Arsenal were beaten by Bayern Munich at the Emirates Stadium and drew with them in Germany but ultimately went out to the far better team. Rather than turn on his team, Wenger turned the attention on Arjen Robben, who he said was a diver, as per Sky Sports.

    Against Stoke, he claimed they only lost because the referee awarded a soft penalty, as per Sky Sports.

    When his team were destroyed 5-1 by Liverpool, he said the result was another "accident," as per BBC.

    It would appear that Wenger has wiped the noses of his players for long enough. They obviously are not responding and now he needs to use a different tact.

    He rarely responds to going public, but he has done so previously.

    Back in 2012, he described his team's 3-0 defeat to AC Milan to the Daily Telegraph as their worst-ever performance in Europe.

    If performances continue in this vein, he might have to go public again.

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