With a Top 4 finish the only glory left to play for, Wenger’s men earned a well deserved 3 points against Swansea at the Liberty Stadium. With an inspired second half performance by the Gunners, goals from Monreal and Gervinho tilted a strongly contested fixture Arsenal’s way.
Wenger’s team selection was a topic of discussion before the game, and as predicted Wenger kept Szczesny and club captain Vermaelen on the bench. Diaby and Chamberlain replaced Ramsey and Rosicky, and this meant that Cazorla could shift to his preferred central role. Monreal replaced the bruised Gibbs.
Michael Laudrap had much lesser worries on the injury front. Michu, Hernandez and Dyer were upfront with De Guzmann, Ki and Britton in midfield.
With both teams widely appreciated for their non-dismissible practice of passing the ball rather than hoofing, the game had to be decided on which one could soak in all the pressure and break better on the break. Crediting Wenger for the initial tactics, the Frenchman had put in 3 quick attackers in the midfield zone to counter against Swansea’s pressing style.
Swansea’s fullbacks attack contrastingly, Hernandez’s high position wasted
Arsenal had lost both of their previous meetings against Swansea in the EPL, and so the manner in which the Welsh team started the contest was unsurprising. Michu as usual played upfront just beside Mertersacker. The Spaniard was supported by Hernandez on the left, whose high up position on this wing was one of the main features of the game.
Dyer seemed to have been given a free roaming role while Swansea were on the ball and the Englishman was seen in a much central role initially. His runs behind the defence were found well via rare long balls from Ki. But off the ball, Dyer just as the rest of the team was quite disciplined positionally. He tracked back well with Nacho Monreal on the right flank and was often in the right position to cut out passes to this wing.
With Hernandez being positioned high up on the right, his main role was to cut in against Jenkinson. This left Ben Davies to overlap behind the Spaniard on such instances. But this happened on rare occasions as most of the times Hernandez was not allowed to move in from the wings by the superb Jenkinson and this left Davies in the middle of the park in attacks.
The attack on the other flank was in complete contrast. Due to Dyer’s central drift from the right, Chamberlain also rarely tracked on that flank leaving Dyer to the likes of Arteta in the centre. This left the right flank completely to the rule of the fullbacks. Angel Rangel, Swansea’s marauding fullback, was found in very high positions up-field and in more than 1 occasion was in a goal scoring position. Arsenal’s left back Nacho Monreal was directly covering Rangel’s runs; and other than 1 run in which the Swansea man got in behind Nacho, Monreal did a pretty decent job.
Arsenal’s attacks very narrow, Diaby doesn’t utilize space ahead of deep Swansea
One of Arsenal’s main characteristics in attacks this season has been the narrow positions of the attackers. With Walcott featuring almost as a second striker, Theo rarely goes into crossing positions in the wings. On the other flank, Chamberlain is mostly on the wings unlike Podolski, but today due to Dyer’s absence from the flanks, Chamberlain rarely ventured into the wide areas.
Now with Chamberlain also in a much narrower position, all the pressure was on the Swansea middle 2 of Britton and Ki. Britton especially was left with the role of watching for Chamberlain. This left the actual No.10 Cazorla with loads of space behind Giroud. So Ki and De Guzmann had to fall back much more deep. So now Swansea’s midfield became very deep, leaving a huge gap behind Michu.
With the Swans falling deep, Arsenal’s midfield duo of Arteta and Diaby also had a lot more space. Diaby especially roamed the midfield areas freely, but just as he reached an advanced area Swansea midfielders crowded him out. Abou’s decision making has always been indifferent but today the Frenchman rarely was able to find a teammate from the edge of the D.
Giroud’s threat quenched, 2nd half changes
The 2nd half did not see any change in shape for both teams; the only change was the urgency in Arsenal’s play now. Giroud’s positioning during goal kicks became very important in this game. With Britton an obvious target for the towering Frenchman to climb over, Laudrap changed his tactics by making either of his centre back Monk o Williams to fall on to Giroud. Both of the 2 were more than capable of winning duels in the air and this kept Giroud and hence the runners off him, quiet.
Wenger’s substitutions saw Gervinho come in for Chamberlain and Ramsey for Diaby. Gervinho looked sharp against Bayern and here again the Ivorian seemed to be in good touch. He was able to easily turn around Dyer and beat Rangel well for pace.
Arsenal’s first goal also came through via good play on this left flank. Monreal’s low finish after a scrappy affair in the box was just a result of utter dominance in the second half.
Laudrap’s substitutions saw Looke Moore come in upfront and Swansea shifted to a 2 man attack. But here Arsenal’s defensive pairing of Koscienly and Mertersacker needs to be praised. They clearly justified Vermaelen’s place on the bench.
Arsenal’s second goal came in the stoppage time when Swansea put all bodies ahead and Ramsey was able to break out on the right. Gervinho was able to finish a low cross and this should bring him a lot of confidence.
As for Swansea, their dream run over the past 3-4 years has continues this season as Laudrap has gone 1 step further and added a trophy to their cabinet. Even a mid-table finish in the League would be a terrific season for the Welsh team.
Top of the match: Carl Jenkinson
Flop of the match: Leo Britton