Arsenal's bright start through who else but Robin Van Persie was dashed within minutes as Aaron Ramsey brought down Nathan Dyer, an absolute pest to the Gunners, and Scott Sinclair converted the penalty. The foul looked pretty soft. Andrey Arshavin who had threaded the pass through for RVP's goal was guilty of less precision in the second half as Ramsey could not latch onto his errant service gifting the ball to Joe Allen. The midfielder quickly sprang free Dyer and the winger taking a touch swept his shot past Szczesny.
In a match of fluctuating fortunes, Walcott relatively anonymous so far was fed a beautiful ball by Johan Djourou, and with his pace was able to get past Williams for the equalizer. But we have seen it before against Stoke, Blackburn, Spurs, and just about anyone, Arsenal's concentration is at its most vulnerable just after it scores. Somehow they have trouble gathering their wits and so it was with Swansea as Danny Graham took advantage of some soft marking to sweep to the right of Laurent Koscielny and unleash a majestic finish from a tight angle for the winning goal.
Thierry Henry's much anticipated return to the Premiership did not yield the same result as the FA Cup match. Which of course begs the question, after how many appearances does expectancy wear off and the fumes of hope extinguish themselves? Did Wenger ever prepare for that possibility? We can live washed up on a beach head of nostalgia but to expect 34 year old Henry to provide the answers everytime he sets foot on the pitch is to believe in the alchemists stone.
So where does this defeat leave Arsenal? In fifth position, four points behind Chelsea with a far more adverse goal differential. More ominously, with two defeats in a row, Arsenal are now level on point terms with Newcastle and just a point ahead of Liverpool. Which means they are now competing for a Europa spot. In term of quality of play, Arsenal were dire with their passing game which led to Swansea capturing much of the ball. In truth, this was never going to be an easy match as the Swans have made a point of showcasing their own considerable skills in communication.
Ramsey had a particularly forgettable day in his return to Wales. Arshavin was at his infuriating best, setting up RVP's goal but also providing a number of pointless passes, one which led to Dyer's goal. The lack of full backs pressing down the flanks ever since Sagna and Andre Santos left us leaves us with most of the thrust generated centrally which is easier to bottle by putting more bodies which is what Swansea was able to do.
Wenger also made a mistake putting in Per Mertesacker who clearly has not yet recovered from his flu like symptoms as the big German looked even more ponderous. His miss off a corner when a toe poke would have scored the elusive equalizer was emblematic of his slowed senses. Instead he whiffed on a ball that landed invitingly at his feet in front of goal with Henry telegraphing his frustrated reaction. More bizarrely, was the cross that Ignasi Miquel lifted finding Mertesacker in the box which led to an major embarrassment of ungainly moves and a foul. What was Mertesacker doing there in the first place?
The answer is quite troubling. We have no center forward. Chamakh has failed. RVP is a slot striker and Henry is actually a winger with incredible shooting skills. Passing crosses has become a redundancy. The subbing of Mertesacker with Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and relocating Song to central defender should have taken place at least a half ago.
Here is what the last 7 matches look like ever since that distant 4-0 drubbing of Wigan early in December. Three wins, 3 losses, and a draw to drop 14 points. The loss of Bakary Sagna and Andre Santos has proven immensely damaging. We have rejiggered with Vermaelen, Ignasi Miquel and Francis Coquelin on the left and on the right with Djourou and Miquel but really this is just plugging a leaking dam with putty. Next up, Utd and if they were to miraculously turn into three toed sloths, would still find a way to beat us.
This is Wenger's reaction to the match. Spot what is wrong with it.
" Coincidences are always against us and it is difficult to understand what is going on. I don't know, I feel we are a bit too nervous. We cannot panic every time they have the ball in the final third of the pitch. We have to show more composure and ambition. I think we panicked a bit too quickly today. "
First, this is a manager who says he doesn't know what's going on. To blithely say coincidences is to deny a systematic pattern. Second, to equate Swansea to City or United invoking a panic attack every time they camp out in our final third is a huge problem. Why? For the umpteenth time, Wenger finds himself behind the coaching curve. We have done well to get to fifth but like last season we are heading to a swoon that could leave us with more rationalizations and denials. This time spinning fifth as the new fourth will not do.