Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Win's A Win

Arsenal 1-0 Swansea

Sometimes you need a dash of luck to lift you out of a rut.

Arsenal under Wenger have, even at their best, been a team of fragile confidence.

It took one unfortunate defeat at Old Trafford in 2004 to turn the 'Invincibles' into a vulnerable side again. They never recovered the old swagger.

In 2002/2003, I remember a run of four straight defeats, started by Wayne Rooney's wonder goal for Everton. That rotten run was only stopped by a comical Steve Marlet own goal in a tough away game at Fulham. Even that very good Arsenal team needed a helping hand.

The 2011 incarnation of Arsenal don't have the quality of past versions and so any win, in current circumstances, must be welcomed.

The luck came in two large slices.

First, Arshavin's goal. Well-finished, but he never should have been given the chance. The Swansea keeper inexplicably rolled the ball against the heels of his own defender, and the Russian found the net from a fairly tight angle.

It wasn't the last open goal of the game. In the last seconds, the otherwise fantastic Szczesny missed a corner, and the ball bounced down to Danny Graham, who swivelled but spooned the bouncing ball over the bar.

A big moment, potentially, in Arsenal's season.

The performance, after a promising start, was largely disjointed. Arteta played well and provided two gilt-edged chances at 0-0. Ramsey skewed the first wide, very early on. The second was bobbled past the keeper by Walcott, but cleared off the line.

The goal came at a time when Arsenal were, worryingly, starting to run out of ideas in their attempts to break Swansea down. And there was little improvement in that during the second period. The nerves jangled throughout, and Swansea looked to have more pace and vigour in attack when they did get forward. Arsenal's tempo was sluggish, but ultimately Swansea's attack could conjure nothing as telling as their goalkeeper's mistake.

While Arteta enjoyed a promising debut, he was not aided much by Frimpong's passing. Like many such energetic midfield players, Frimpong's distribution is very erratic. If he can smooth out the rough edges of his game, Arsenal will have a fine player.

Mertesacker had a decent game, although he would struggle to win a sprint against Cygan or Senderos. We can only hope he won't become as calamity-prone as that pair. But Arsenal's habitual high line does make things difficult for the German, as does another enforced absence for Vermaelen.

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