Sunday, 11 September 2011

Arsenal 1-0 Swansea City: A Win Is A Win.

Arsenal played their first match since their Old Trafford humiliation yesterday when Swansea came calling in the fourth game of their Premier League campaign. Six of the team that were so badly beaten by United started for Arsenal, and two of their five late signings started the game too. Arsenal only had one point from their first three games and it was vitally important that they got the three points from this game.

The Arsenal starting 11 was as expected with Per Mertesacker and Mikael making their debuts and Bacary Sagna, Kieran Gibbs and Emmanuel Frimpong all returning from illness, injury and suspension respectively. They were added to Wijciech Szczesny in goal, Laurent Koscielny in defence, Aaron Ramsey in midfield and the same front three of Andrey Arshavin, Robin Van Persie and Theo Walcott. The three other new signings were on the Arsenal bench, but unfortunately Alec Oxlade-Chamberlain wasn't.

I was very impressed with Chamberlain in his two performances for the England under 21 team last week, and I thought he might bring something different to the team if he was brought on at some stage. As it turned out only Youssi Benayoun managed to make his debut from the bench, and Andre Santos and Park Ju Young will have to wait a little longer to make theirs. With the players only returning from international duty towards the end of the week there was very little time for the new players to settle in.

As it turned out Arsenal only just managed to sneak a 1-0 win with a rather fortunate goal, but the most important thing for the players and the club was the result. Swansea have to be admired for the way they play football, but their inability to score goals looks likely to see them struggle all season. Arsenal have so many games over the next few weeks that there will be very little opportunity for Arsene Wenger to work with his players in training before the next international break.

It's been said before by me and by others too but I think Arsenal are currently suffering because they did the majority of their transfer dealings at the end of the window. The poor form which the the team was in at the end of last season has continued because it's a very similar team to the one that struggled then, with the exception of both Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri who both left for their own reasons.

The squad needs to be integrated an awful lot more and pre-season was the time to do that, but Arsenal were already three Premier League games into the new campaign when the experience they needed was added. Before the team get back to playing as a proper unit and with some confidence they need to grind out results, and yesterday's victory was such a game. The next two league games are away Blackburn Rovers and at home to Bolton Wanderers.

They are both games Arsenal can win even if they aren't at their best, and it's vital that they do. A total of ten points from their first six games would be a reasonable return considering the terrible start Arsenal had, and I think they will manage it. In between those games there's two tough Champions League games, as well as a Carling Cup game against lower league opposition.

They need to stay in contention in their Champions League as they continue to learn to integrate the new players and rebuild the confidence which was so obviously dented at the end of last season and the start of this one. If they can do that I think things will start to improve in October, and the current squad looks capable of challenging near the top of the table by the end of the season. The return of both Alex Song and Gervinho from suspension should strengthen the team, and when Jack Wilshere and Thomas Vermaelen return from injury things should really be looking up.

The Swansea goalkeeper may have handed Arsenal their goal with a bad mistake yesterday, but Arshavin still took it very well from a very tight angle. He is the most likely player to lose out on Tuesday night when Arsenal travel to play Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday night with Gervinho likely to start. Dortmund haven't had a great start to their defence of their league title as they sit in 10th place with seven points from five games and they lost at home to Hertha Berlin yesterday.

Dortmund's form gives Arsenal some hope on Tuesday night and a win or a draw would go a long way towards helping with confidence. I hope Arsenal can manage one of those two outcomes, and that the display is a little more convincing than yesterday's. At least the three points are on the board for Arsenal now, and things are starting to look just a little bit brighter.

That's it for today.

Here's the highlights from yesterday's game.

See You Tomorrow.

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