Arsenal Vs Swansea City: Highlights and analysis – What the f*ck was that?

SWANSEA, WALES - JANUARY 30: Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Arsenal is being substituted for Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Arsenal at Liberty Stadium on January 30, 2018 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
SWANSEA, WALES - JANUARY 30: Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Arsenal is being substituted for Mohamed Elneny of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Arsenal at Liberty Stadium on January 30, 2018 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images) /

On Tuesday night, as the Premier League returned to the fore, Arsenal travelled to the Liberty Stadium to take on bottom-of-the-table Swansea City. Here is the full recap, all the highlights and analysis of the 3-1 loss.

Well, that was dreadful! Arsenal returned to their away selves on Tuesday night. They forgot how to defend. They created nothing. They played within themselves, with no energy or intensity or fire. They were carved open by Swansea time and time again. They lacked any semblance of structure or positional awareness. They were sloppy in their passing, lethargic in their movement, and utterly lacking in every possible area. Perhaps what is most damning is that they deserved to lose; 3-1 is kind.

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The first half started in typical Arsenal-away fashion, and that is not a good thing. While they maintained possession neatly in deep areas, whenever they pushed the play into more advanced areas, their attacks fell flat. Misplaced passes from Granit Xhaka and Alex Iwobi were especially detrimental. Meanwhile, at the other end, Swansea were offering a pacy and very direct threat.

Nathan Dyer’s pace led to a weak Shkodran Mustafi clearance and Jordan Ayew shot skewing past the post, Sam Clucas whipped a dangerous low cross into the box from the left flank, and then Mohamed Elneny was forced into an outstanding stretched sliding tackle, just poking the ball away from Clucas as he streaked through on the goal. There were worrying signs, to say the least.

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The warning signs did not stop there. Swansea continued to carve Arsenal open on the counter-attack, with their blend of pace and direct out-passes from the defence causing the Gunners great problems. Mohamed Elneny was forced into another last-minute intervention, this time intercepting a low cross that nearly made its way through to Sam Clucas, Alfie Mawson then curled a shot just past the far post from a poorly cleared corner, before Jordan Ayew skipped past three defenders with a spin and surge, ultimately wasting his opportunity by choosing to shoot from distance.

And those warning signs were not listened to, but we’ll get to that in due course. Firstly, Arsenal were actually fortunate enough to take the lead. With only their second dangerous foray into the Swansea penalty area, the first coming on the 29th minute with Alex Iwobi’s angled near-post shot saved well by Lukasz Fabianski, Mesut Ozil clipped a beautiful inswinging cross from a deep, inside-right position which was met emphatically by Nacho Monreal at the far post, his fourth direct involvement in a goal in only 153 minutes.

Unfortunately, the one-goal advantage lasted less than a minute. From the ensuing kick-off, after possession had just been recovered, Mesut Ozil lost the ball, Alfie Mawson stepped into the midfield, Granit Xhaka, who had a torrid first half, either forgot to defend or utterly ignored his defensive duties, and Sam Clucas slotted past Petr Cech at the near post with a neat finish. Perhaps most concerningly, it was no less than the Swans deserved.

The remainder of the half continued in a very similar vein: Arsenal dominated possession — at half-time, they had 69% –; Swansea created the greater chances — at half-time, it was seven shots to five in favour of the hosts. Sadly, though, this is what a traditional Arsenal away performance is. Control of the game, little creativity, defensive vulnerability. It’s why they’ve only won three games on their travels. On this first 45 minutes, that was not a stat that looked destined to change anytime soon.

The second half continued in the same insane manner: Congested, compact attacks with no space to work and no threat in the wide areas; dangerous Swansea breaks with real pace and power that exploited the green grass between the Arsenal midfield and defence. And, predictably given the nature of the performance, it was Swansea who would take a second-half lead.

Arsenal, who lacked the necessary energy, intensity and attacking intent throughout the night, kept passing backwards, eventually forcing Shkodran Mustafi to use Petr Cech. Under pressure from three Swansea players, Cech scuffed his left-footed clearance off his standing leg, and the ball sat up wonderfully for Jordan Ayew to pass it into the gaping net. While it was an innocent, individual error from Cech, the goal was emblematic of the lacking display from the Gunners.

The problems only mounted from then on. While Wenger introduced the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, for his debut, and Olivier Giroud from off the bench, it was actually Swansea that looked the more likely to score. Their best chance came through Nathan Dyer, who collected Shkodran Mustafi’s misguided header back into the centre of the pitch, before lashing his shot past the near post in a poor effort. At the other end, Mkhitaryan placed a header straight into the arms of Lukasz Fabianski, though he was offside, before flashing a dangerous low cross through the six-yard box that no one could get on the end of.

And, indeed, it was Swansea who actually extended their lead. Nacho Monreal attempted an acrobatic clearance and fell; Jordan Ayew, who did exactly this all game long, powered past Shkodran Mustafi, surging towards the goal line; Sam Clucas, adding his second on the night, thumped home the loose ball after Mustafi’s slide challenge diverted the ball back into the penalty area.

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That was that. Swansea, much the better team, ran out comfortable winners. And they deserved it. That is as much an appraisal of their performance as it is a damnation of Arsenal’s. This could well have been the worst Arsenal display in a season full of shocking Arsenal display. What the f*ck was that?!