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Swansea 1 Arsenal 2: A very Arsenal goal

I spent Saturday at a wedding. This report comes from Goodplaya correspondent Nico Hines.

TOP OF THE LEAGUE
We’re top, a couple of points clear of second place and eight points above Manchester United; in fact, we have more than twice as many points as United. After the start we’ve had to the last few seasons, you have to say: it’s great fun.

FIRST HALF
Swansea seemed to think it was wise to keep the game tight and go in at half-time level. Disappointingly, after a week of rest for most of the players, we appeared happy enough to oblige. Gnabry provided the only real moment of quality when he drove towards goal and laid on a great chance for Olivier Giroud, the effort was dragged wide but it was an impressive burst of pace and skill from the 18-year-old.

SERGE!
When Gnabry was given a similar opportunity in the second half, he showed Giroud exactly how to do it and steered his shot into the far corner. The teenager played 120 minutes on Wednesday night and was making his third start in six days. In truth, he was far from scintillating for most of the game but scoring the opener and creating that chance for Giroud were enough to raise one of those rare Wenger smiles in the post-match interview. The boss seems to think he’s got a real talent on his hands.

CLICKING
The second goal was absolutely spectacular – one of those moves that has you off your seat long before the ball hits the roof of the net. That giddy mixture of flicks and over-elaboration was a most fitting tribute for Wenger’s 17th anniversary and Aaron Ramsey got another chance to shhhh a crowd that had been taunting him. Once again he finished man of the match, amazing to think he’s still only 22.

POSSESSION
We’re not bossing possession at the moment. Marseilles, Stoke and Swansea all had periods where they seemed to be keeping the ball better than us in midfield. We’ve got away with it but Wenger won’t be happy. Flamini has been excellent since returning to the team, but I expect him to drop to the bench as soon as Arteta is fully fit. It’ll be fascinating to see if we immediately regain our stranglehold on the possession stats.

KEEPING IT UP
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? On one hand, we haven’t played many top teams yet, this Ramsey hot streak cannot continue forever and we’re still just one injury away from Nicklas Bendtner. On the other hand, the team-spirit appears to be at its best for years, Wilshere will get better, the back-four looks settled and we’ve still got Walcott, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Cazorla to come. Add another striker in January and this could be a memorable season.

26 Responses to “Swansea 1 Arsenal 2: A very Arsenal goal”

  1. Lawal says:

    Flamini should stay in the first eleven.. He’a the type of DM we’ve been craving for all this while. Arteta can be competing with ozil, ramsey et.al

  2. Elvis says:

    You know, I’m beginning to wonder now if our new disinclination to dominate possession is deliberate. I’m sure it’s happened too often this season to be coincidental.

    How many times have we bossed possession in the last five years against unambitious, defensive teams only to be hit by a sucker punch on their first break forward?

    Now our defence is a bit more solid, we’re able to sit back more and scoring on the break which is what we did in the Invincibles era.

    I have to say it’s a better spectacle that endless, tedious passing around limited but resolute defenders, playing for a point from the first minute, vainly hoping for the killer pass that cuts them open.

  3. Dave Highbury says:

    Exactly right Elvis!

  4. Alzation says:

    If you look back at the stats, during the period of the Invincibles, we often had less possession than the opposition. It’s a way to lengthen the pitch to allow counter-attacks.

    In recent years, we played a possession game that widened the pitch rather than lengthening it, but we became susceptible to the counter.

    We’re adapting tactics to make best use of our strengths. Finally!

  5. Wallace says:

    i wonder if Ramsey would have gone on this scoring glut if it had been Arteta partnering him in the middle? i know they combined very well in the run-in to last season, but fairly sure Flamini’s more naturally defensively-inclined game has allowed Ramsey to be more adventurous in his play.

    also, thought Jack had a good 2nd half, and was very, very impressed with Gnabry. something very exciting about the way he slowly eased his way into the game, before giving us a glimpse of what he can do. very quick feet for his goal.

  6. slc gunner says:

    I like the look of Gnabry. He’s more Ox than Theo. He’s built like a tank, is very confident on the ball, and feels comfortable drifting in from the wing. If you compare him to Ox and Theo at the same age, it’s interesting. At the same age, there were hordes clamouring for Theo and Ox to be regular starters. I don’t see the same clamour occurring for Gnabry, maybe because we are finally a stronger team. But great backup to have when Theo, Ox and Lukas come back, and a decent starting option in the meantime.
    On the possession front, agree with what’s been said in terms of our effectiveness. That said, Swansea is one of those teams that will dominate possession in most of its games: it’s not just Arsenal. They have played like that for the last 2-3 years. Despite their possession, they never really looked threatening.

  7. Elvis says:

    Yes Wallace, I’m loving this Flamini – Wilshere – Ozil – Ramsey midfield. It is so balanced. Arteta, for all his composure and passing stats, doesn’t really improve it.

    Flamini, more than anyone, has made the difference this season in helping everyone else in the team play to their strengths.

  8. slc gunner says:

    I’m liking Flamini’s contribution as well. But Arteta can count on at least 3 games in the holding role (1 after Flamini’s 5-yellow suspension and 2 more after his 10-yellow suspension). Which is not a problem really. The position calls for plenty of tackles. Will be interesting to see if we see an Arteta-Flamini combination on Tuesday. My suspicion is that Serge won’t play and that we’ll see either Arteta or Rosicky come in.

  9. Savage says:

    “In truth, he was far from scintillating for most of the game”

    Harsh. Many fans had him as man of the match. It was his defensive shift that was so scintillating – the last thing you would have expected from an experienced 18 year old.

    Gervinho has been replaced.

  10. MDP says:

    I 100% agree with Savage on Gnabry. A very intelligent performance and always great to see an attacking player understand his defensive duties.

    Going over old ground here but Flamini is first choice all day long for me. Arteta is never a defensive midfielder and this has been proven since Flamini has joined the side. Arteta will certainly do his best filling in and use his intelligent and disciplined play to do a reasonable job but never first choice. I’d actually sign another defensive midfielder and have Arteta fighting it out with Ramsey for the place alongside holding midfield. Arteta’s strength is his distribution. Agree with what Wallace says about Ramsey having more freedom to venture forward alongside Flamini.

    Ramsey has arrived as far as I’m concerned. He’s certainly on a goal spree that surely wont go on forever but you combine his current form with that at the end of last season and this is no flash in the pan.

  11. PD says:

    It’s astonishing to me that anyone is even debating the Flamini/Arteta situation. Seriously people, give it a rest, it’s absolute nonsense. It’s the first time since 07-08 that other big teams/managers/fans are wary of us. It’s not a coincidence.
    So Swansea had more possession ?So what. We were utterly comfortable on Saturday for long periods. If Sagna hadn’t got lazy for their goal, no-one would be even mentioning it. At 2-1, it’s easy to say we were hanging on but – unlike many of the wins at the end of last season – we weren’t. It was far more comfortable viewing that those wins were.

    I really want to see Jack left out on Tuesday. He was out on his feet on Saturday (what a shift though from a guy in a position he clearly isn’t in any way comfortable with) & we need to be careful with him. I’d play Rosicky if fit or if not, Arteta with Ozil asked to drift wider like Jack has been doing. (though I know it’s not ideal for him either.)
    If we can then get Santi back on Saturday, we are starting to have more options again.

    I’m really enjoying this season I have to say. Hope is a good thing…it’s been far too long that we’ve had none.

  12. Wallace says:

    with Rosicky & Cazorla almost back, and with Gnabry’s emergence, i think Jack & Ramsey will get some rest. maybe even rotate for a while…really looking forward to the game tomorrow night. two good teams in great form. should be fascinating.

  13. tonno says:

    I still think Arteta would be better with Ramsey but Flamini has been great since he’s been back. He’ll certainly has a lot of work to do if he is to get back into the first team.

  14. Henry49 says:

    Arsenal team is now the best in the epl

  15. Bonga says:

    I think we can all agree with the fact that the arrival of Flamini has gone on to prove the importance of a defensive player in the midfield to really free up our creative talent to really pull string and recycle possession for fast breaks. It has allowed to change gears in a way we haven’t had in seasons. I think that what Flamini has done us show how important it is for us to have a player in that role. Just as much as we need a striker in jan, we need another a DM in the calibre of a Bender. For the first time in a while I feel that the Arsenal ship is just in need of patching and not the massive refits that have looked necessary. As always, in Arsenal we trust. The boss knows best.

  16. Rufusstan says:

    Completely Agree Elvis. It was interesting how for the most part, we let then do what they wanted with the ball in their own half,

    As they moved forwards we started pressing, and eventually took it off of them. On the few chances they broke through, the keeper had plenty of time to deal with the situation. Their goal came from a move I’d be proud to see us pull off, so if it takes that to break us down, I can live with it.

    For the most part they were reduced to taking pot-shots from outside the box (like most clubs this season). By the way, hands up anyone who still has their hands in their mouth at each set-piece? Not me.

    On the midfield? What matters most to me is not that we have a ‘best’, but we have real choice. Different combinations and formations, all full of Arsenal quality guys.

    Gnabry is rough (but 18), and could be something special. His performance has to go into the context that he had run himself into the ground in midfield and the players around him were fresh.

    The exception is Per, but I’m still wondering how he just manages to be in the right place when heeded. Down to either Telepathy or Teleportation; not much else makes sense.

    A final thought — so far this season its taken 2 penalties to beat us.

  17. Rufusstan says:

    Bollocks. For Gnabry, Midfield = Midweek (and 120 mins at that).

    He was on his knees at the end of the game on Wed, and probably shouldn’t have take a penalty for that reason, but still had the balls to step up.

    I was wondering why Vervaelen didn’t step up, but barely fit, and he’s missed a few big ones so it probably was a good choice after all — pens are so much about confidence.

  18. Boldson says:

    Thank God things are begining 2 set in for arsenal, my take on this is the huge difference flamini have brought to the team. I’ve said it over the yrs that our team will not be gunning for honours if we don’t use players naturally endowed at every position in d team to achieve a consistent results that could bring laurels to d club at d end of each competitive season. It is good idea that wenger has finally realise this. I wish d team a trophy laden season.

  19. afeso says:

    Am impressed wf our performances so far. Gnabry is an exceptional talent and cover and lets not 4get gideon zelalem. Flamini has shown why he shud av stayed afta 07/08 season. Arteta is tidy but neva in d mould of a rough,rugged and raw flamini. With flamini’s presence, teams are now wary of Arsenal. We hav controled possesion 4 years nw wf nothn to show. Flamini has given d other mid fielders freedom to rove nd deal d killer punches. Wenger shud not b given a nw deal until he delivers a trophy. But shud keep getin commendations 4 a job weldone. Rosicky,poldi,santi,ox,diaby n sanogo shud get wel soon. Wf ds players in gud shape, signings in lars bender and diego costa and d already fit ones, i see Arsenal takin d lead astronomically. Arsenal 4 life.

  20. PD says:

    Asked what Flamini has brought to the team, Wenger said: “That combative aspect. That winning desire. And balance in the team as well. He focuses on just doing the dirty work.’

    I get the point about not having a ‘best’ team & there is extraordinary competition in the attacking positions. If everyone is fit picking 4 from Ozil,Jack,Ramsey,Arteta,Rosicky,Santi,Theo, Ox & Poldi is not simple. And then Gnabry too…….but Flamini & Giroud are nailed-on. Without either of them, there is simply no combination of the others that works.

  21. osahi says:

    What I like about this ‘new’ Arsenal is the grit to come out of a game with a win, deft-passing, flowing football or not. There’s a better all-round defensive responsibility. A few tweaks in signing a striker and centre back should be enough for a couple of trophies this season. There’s a friendship, a bonding spirit among the players which is also helping. Let’s keep the winning mentality going into November and December when we face Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, win those and the fear-factor of Arsenal will come into play. Like Rufusstan said, I’m confident of us handling set pieces against us, great we’re using ours devastatingly too. The season looks good ahead!

  22. Wallace says:

    @PD – yup, that’s pretty much how i see it too. also, wouldn’t be averse in the future to Wenger yanking Giroud for Bendtner with 10/15mins to go. depending on the game situation of course.

  23. Rohit says:

    We also have a player called “Isaac Hayden”. He played well against West Brom on Wednesday. Our reserves team is quite good wid the likes of Bellerin, Eisfeld, Akpom.. hope dey will get more chances to prove themselves

  24. slc gunner says:

    I love that Per Mertesacker is saying (on arsenal.com) that there is room for improvement. He has really grown on me in the last 6 months. His weakness is his lack of pace (and his occasional sideways turning into the tackle which ‘Playa has pointed out), but positionally he is excellent. Also, his decision-making is outstanding. I recall an incident on Saturday where he backed off rather than committing, slowing down their attack and allowing others to get back. His leadership is also great.

  25. blaque says:

    Hmmmmm!!! Like a host of other gunners out there in horde of football ‘fanfiefdom’, its been an absorbing start to the season. Granted we’ve only played the white ‘juggernaut’ from across the street out of the other ‘top’ 5 teams, there’s seemingly the rather decade long familiarity feel to this team. While current achievements are pretty much outstanding, the knowledge of having creative elements like Carzola and Rosicky to come into this side is pretty heart warming… Its been quite a while since I’ve had that feeling welling up from within ergo the decade ago reference. I do worry that we like a dynamic feel to our play though; Ramsey can steam roll past players but I daresay we need one player who would take on a player or two in the final third with only one goal in view- shoot the bleeding ball. Adding such dynasism to our play would make us near unstoppable; still mulling over what Le Champ Suarez might have added to our overall squad quality- you can’t blame a brother for hoping eh!!! Let’s keep the faith as we soldier on this season. There would be some grubby patch during the course of this football calender but we must not relent in our duty to push the lads as far and hard as we can…

  26. RD says:

    In Arsene we trust.

    Even if we don’t win a trophy this season, we should sign Wenger for life. He’s made us a HUGE club. No other manager could have done it with the (lack of) resources he’s had in the last 6 or 7 years. Think about it. Chelsea and ManC basically bought their way to the top. Without that money, they’d still be nowhere. Arsene built us a new stadium, bought and sold players judiciously, kept us in the Champions League, increased our revenues and our pile of cash, and swooped in with great timing to get Ozil which will make great players want to come to The Arsenal!

    The future is bright. We would never have had this future without our Arsene. When he’s done managing, he should become our chairman!

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