A 90th minute Mathieu Flamini own goal saw the Swans grab a vital point away from home at the Emirates Stadium and in doing so gave Arsenal Manager Arsene (grumpy bugger) Wenger even more to think about following his side’s drubbing against Chelsea on the weekend. Sorry Arsene, no sympathy from us as we need the points!
Garry Monk introduced Neil Taylor, Jonjo Shelvey, Jonathan De Guzman and Michu to the side that lost to Everton on Saturday, with Davies, Canas, Hernandez and Dyer making way. Interestingly, Monks chose to play De Guzman out wide on the right, perhaps in an attempt to offer Angel Rangel a little more protection, a decision that worked reasonably well.
Arsenal were again missing a number of key players, in particular Welshman Aarron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil, Jack Wiltshere, Theo Walcott and Abou Daiby. They were, however able to call on Keiron Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain after their bizarre case of mistaken identity against Chelsea on Saturday.
The first 10 minutes of the game were all Arsenal, as they controlled the ball and peppered the Swansea goalmouth with passes and crosses. In fact, we could have easily been at least 1 down in this early period, with Oxlade Chamberlain in particular going close. Then, with 11 minutes on the clock, full back Neil Taylor, on his return to the starting 11, was allowed time and space on the left flank. Playing a well measured cross into the box, Big Wilfred Bony did what he does best, rising above his marker to head his 20th goal of the season, with Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny well beaten.
In fairness to the home side, the goal was against the run of play and Arsenal proceeded to batter the Swansea rearguard for the rest of the half, with endless crosses, corners and free kicks being cleared by our hard working defence, including goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
The home side were met with a round of boos from the unhappy Gunners supporters at half time, who couldn’t seem to believe that their side were losing this game, given the amount of possession their team had enjoyed. In contrast, our first half defensive performance was much better than of late, though in truth few of us in the away end felt confident that we could hold out for another 45 minutes.
The second half started the same way as the first ended, with the Gunners putting the Swans under extreme pressure. However, despite the continued onslaught, we actually had some decent chances. Bony headed weakly straight at Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny, although there was little pace in the cross to assist him. Spaniard Michu showed his rustiness by first miscuing a shot on goal and later heading over the bar when he might have done better.
On 73 minutes, our luck ran out. A cross from the left from Keiron Gibbs saw substitute and German international Podolski volley home. Then, a minute later, Arsenal were ahead, when Podolski advanced down the left and crossed for Giroud to score. Talk about an inspired substitution!
There looked no way back for the Swans, yet with normal time more or less up, we equalised. Leon Britton found himself in the box, charging forwards in an action more akin to Wilfried Bony than one we have come to expect from Little Leon. Mertesacker intercepted the ball, but it then bounced off Szczesny, hitting Flamini and ended up in the net. Cue ecstatic applause from the Jackarmy faithful as the players celebrated in front of us in the corner of the ground which housed the away following.
I’d definitely sum this result up as being a point gained. Yes, we conceded 2 goals in the space of 66 seconds, however we showed tremendous character, first by going ahead early in the game and then by getting something out of the match in the closing minutes.
Pleasingly, we worked our socks off at the back, with some solid performances, in particular from Captain Fantastic Ashley Williams, who led by example. Neil Taylor also had a fine game on his return to the side and deserves to stay there in opinion, while Ben has a well deserved rest. I think a few games on the sidelines will do Ben good as he recoups his energy for the end of the season.
Leon Britton was again superb in midfield, chasing and harrying the Arsenal players, while ably assisted by Jonjo Shelvey on his return from injury. In fact Jonjo had a reasonable attempt on goal in the second half from 20 odd yards, which on another day could have flown in rather than fizzing wide as it did on this occasion.
Finally, we saw yet another huge performance from Wilfried Bony. His header was a proper old fashioned striker’s goal and his all work rate was first class. There were also 1 or 2 signs that Michu is edging back to fitness and form, although in reality he still needs another few games before he will be back to his best.
Well done the Swans, bring on Norwich and 3 points on Saturday.
The teams and player marks (out of 10):
Swansea City: Vorm 7, Rangel 7, Taylor 7 (Davies 6), Chico 6, Williams (Captain) 9, Britton 8, Shelvey 7 (Hernandez 6), De Guzman 6, Michu 6 (Dyer 6), Routledge 6, Bony 8 (Michu 5). Unused substitutes: Tremmel, Amat, Canas, Vazquez,
Swans’ man of the match: Williams
Scorers: Wilfried Bony, Flamini (Own goal)
Arsenal: Szczesny 6, Sagna 6, Gibbs 6, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Podolski 8), Mertesacker 6, Vermaelen 6, Rosicky 7 (Kailstrom 5), Arteta 6, Giroud 7 (Sanogo NA), Cazorla 8, Flamini 5. Unused substitutes: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Bellerin, Gnaby
Arsenal man of the match: Carzola
Scorers: Podolski, Giroud
Possession stats: Swansea 39% Arsenal 61%.
The match referee: Lee Probert 6. Probert had the whistle welded to his mouth in this one. Interestingly, he only booked 1 player, namely Wilfred Bony, who was offered absolutely no protection from the referee all night. However, his most frustrating decision was to blow the final whistle when we were through on goal forty yards out with a chance to win the game. I have to say, he probably wouldn’t have blown if it was Arsenal attacking rather than the Swans.
Attendance: 59,937, with the Jacks singing “Oh, empty seats are wonderful”!