Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Arsenal Slip Up At Home To Swansea

All goods things must come to an end they say and so it was with Arsenal last night when they were beaten at home by Swansea. It was a great opportunity for Arsenal to keep the pressure on City as they attempt to finish second in the Premier League for the first time in 10 years, but the defeat leaves City in a much stronger position. There's three points between the teams and Arsenal have a game in hand, but City have a nine goal advantage on goal difference after they thrashed QPR at the weekend.

The task is far from impossible though and Swansea could still play a big part in it as they play at home to City on Sunday before Arsenal travel to United. City have hit some form since their title chances ended and they will want to win to turn the screw on Arsenal, but Swansea have proved themselves to be a tough team for almost anyone to beat. If Arsenal are going to finish second then Swansea have to take something off City and the more points they take the better.

Arsenal lost at home to United in the league in November, but they won away to them in the FA Cup quarter finals. They will need another performance like the one they put on in that cup game if they are to get the three points off United and there's a lot at stake for United too. There's still a slight chance United can catch Arsenal for third place, but they will have to win on Sunday to realistically keep those chances alive.

There's still an FA Cup final to come for Arsenal at the end of the month, but it looks like the game on Sunday is shaping up to be one of the most crucial games of the season. If Swansea can do some damage to City then second place is on the cards again, but a defeat for Arsenal will leave a lot of questions to be asked. If Arsenal are going to get something from the game they will have to do an awful lot better than they did against Swansea.

Arsene Wenger has kept faith with what he obviously sees as his current first choice 11 in recent weeks, but those players weren't at the races against Swansea. For me the pace of the game in the first half in particular was far too slow and it was too easy for Swansea to nullify Arsenal. They came to defend in depth and look to hit Arsenal on the break and their plan worked perfectly when Gomis headed their late winner.

They were helped in no small measure by Arsenal's lacklustre first half performance and some poor Arsenal finishing after the break. Lukasz Fabianski might have made nine saves on the night (all in the last half hour), but he was never pushed to the limit for any of those saves. The best chance of all for Arsenal came just over 20 minutes from the end when a defensive lapse let Alexis Sanchez in, but he hit his shot tamely at Fabianski and Theo Walcott couldn't put away the rebound either.

Walcott had come on for the ineffectual Olivier Giroud a little earlier as the French centre forward had another night to forget. He was in sparkling form only a few weeks ago, but it has suddenly all gone wrong for him again. I still think he's a good player, but he's certainly not in the class of Seegio Aguero or Luis Suarez and Arsenal need a striker of that calibre to take it to the next level.

Of course he wasn't the only player who wasn't at his best and the whole team was flat and failed to bring the tempo to the game that was needed. They have three league games left to put that game behind them and finish the season on a high and I think they will do it. One of the best features of the team this season has been their ability to bounce back when things have gone wrong and I hope they will do it again on Sunday.

United aren't going to sit back and defend like Swansea did and Arsenal will certainly have more space to attack. They might need to bring some pace into the team if they are going to exploit United and get in behind a defence which looks vulnerable to me. The obvious choice would be Walcott to play on the right even if he has barely kicked a ball in four months, but Danny Welbeck could do well too if he's fit to return.

My other gripe about last night would be David Ospina's attempt to keep the Swansea goal out and I'm still far from convinced by him. There's not much in it between him and Wojciech Szczesny, but ultimately neither of them are the top class keeper you need to compete with the very best. There's still much work to be done in the transfer window in the summer, but the team has certainly got plenty of promise for next season. 

Even if the worst were to happen and Arsenal lost to United on Sunday they would still finish third with four points from their last two games which are at home to Sunderland and West Brom. They're games this team should win and they hardly deserve third place if they can't take four points from their last three games. Despite last night's set back I am still very confident they will finish third at worst and I haven't completely given up on second place either.

We owe United a beating after they stole three points from the Emirates earlier in the season and the FA Cup win only went some way towards repaying that debt. We'll have to be an awful lot better if we're going to beat them, but the team certainly have it within them. They will have to go out there with the right personell and the right attitude, but there would be something wrong with them if they couldn't get themselves up for such a big game.  The run of 10 unbeaten league games is over, but it's time to start the next run and where better to do it than at the stadium where we won the league in 2002. 

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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