'No excuses' formed the last part of yesterday's post and here we are today trying to scramble around for a bag of them. Look no further than a weak squad and a manager whose lack of imagination with his tactics and total contempt for ruthlessness in his selection yet again leaves us banging our heads against the proverbial brick wall.
Swansea know how to play possession football, Wenger arrogantly quipped 'in their own half' before the game, sadly they showed us how wrong he was. At times they commanded 63% and the bulk of it was in our third. They looked more inventive than us, they were certainly more daring and ultimately, they proved too good for us. Once again, we're waking up to another defeat, our 7th, against the back drop of taking the lead. That's 8 points thrown in 4 games and 0 points so far this year.
How did this all happen? Well, it wasn't because of a bad start. Robin Van Persie opened the scoring after 4 minutes when Arshavin picked him out perfectly with a through ball, the Dutchman looked like he'd taken too long over his decision, he faked, then slipped his snap shot inside Vorm's post. A fabulous finish.
Swansea didn't falter though. This wasn't your usual newly promoted side. This was a team that played like a classic Italian team. They kept possession in the middle of the park and slowed the tempo of the game to suit them, when they saw a chance to slip a winger in, they'd jump on it.
Sadly it wasn't a lovely piece of possession play that resulted in their goal. Miquel made a hash of a clearance which lead to a Swansea attack, as Dyer was looking to manoeuver in the box, he sensed Ramsey behind him and dropped when it looked like the Welshman had brushed him. It looked soft to start with, on replay, it was a blatant dive. Terrible reffing. A decision we'd never get in reverse. It's a shame I have to criticise Ramsey for standing behind a player in the box, but that's the way of the game these days. Sinclair took the penalty and beat the keeper to his left. 1-1.
Ramsey went close soon after we'd kicked off, he latched onto a duff Robin shot, took the ball round Vorm but had no one in a red shirt in the box. Yossi found Robin moments later, the Captain only had the keeper to beat but blasted his shot right at him.
Theo Walcott was looking abject at best. His decision making in the final third was not of the highest order and he didn't look particularly interested. How long does the boss persist with him? 'Swansea 63% possession' flashed up on the screen, they we controlling the game and playing very well.
Our cumbersome full backs were causing us problems. They'd bomb forward without the pace to return. Their lack of mobility in the final third made you wonder why they kept marauding forward like a pack of Bendtners.
The second half opened with a bit more of a bang, Robin fed in Theo, sadly, he could only fire over the bar. Arshavin did the same when Rambo teed him up minute later. Swansea weren't deterred, fizzing two shots just wide from the edge of our box. We needed to get tighter.
The Welsh took the lead after Aaron Ramsey gave the ball away twice with a poor pass firstly, then a shoddy bit of control, Joe Allen picked up the pieces, played in an unmarked Nathan Dyer with a well weighted pass and let him bury his shot across Chesney. Where was Miquel? About a mile up the pitch... that's where. Two very weak mistakes by Aaron as well. He really wasn't doing his Aaron ambassadors any favours...
Wenger changed up the side pretty sharpish. He brought on Thierry Henry for Arshavin (who was dead) and he oddly opted to bring on Rosicky for Benayoun. Why oh why when you're chasing a game would you bring on a player who hardly ever makes an impact (2 years since his last goal), especially when taking off a player who has always seemed far more dangerous.
My gripes could be put on hold for a moment, Theo Walcott levelled things up when JD threaded him through on goal from right back. Sure it was a nice finish, but it didn't disguise his woeful performance. Or the fact it was his first contribution to the goal tally since October. He really is out of his depth at Arsenal.
Barely having enough time to sit back down, Miquel was again caught out of position by Siggurdson, he was rumbled, Thierry then lost it on the half way line trying to recover the mistake, Swansea split the defence, Danny Graham beat Koscielny and fired a shot across goal. Chesney was well out of position and they scored. What a debacle.
We were losing by a goal against a team with the lowest transfer spend out of everyone who had a wage bill equal to 3 Diaby's last season. What a joke. We didn't really make much of an effort to level things up. AOC was brought on for Mertesacker and he looked bright. Trouble was that no one really gave him the ball. Thierry had a glancing header that whistled past the post and Koscielny nearly acrobatically turned in a spilled Rosicky shot, but bar that, it was frustration all around.
We'd lost. Beaten by Swansea. Call ourselves a top 4 team? Not on this evidence.
What can you say that hasn't already been rehashed a million times on here? We don't have the squad to handle injuries to key players. Arteta picked up a calf strain before the game and we lost our maestro. Our passing wasn't accurate for most of the match and we really struggled to penetrate Swansea in their own half. We had hardly any shots and we certainly didn't seem to be able to match the fight on show from the minnows.
The team selection gets tougher and tougher to digest every week. We know certain players aren't good enough, yet we persist. Arshavin did level in with an assist and I thought he did ok in the first half, but his fitness really is questionable. AOC looked far more lively and interested than Theo has for the last few games, yet he's still only considered for cameo appearances. If a player isn't in good form, whatever happened to dropping them? We never do... Wenger doesn't look at a passport when he selects, he looks at how much of his ego he's invested in a player before he does. He's certainly wagered a big chunk on Theo after saying he had more than Messi at 19...
What really gets me is our system. 4-3-3 works when we've got all our best players available, but when the bulk of them are missing, shouldn't we change things up. If we really do value intelligence in players, then adapting to a new set up shouldn't be a problem. Things to consider yesterday...
1. Our full backs were both carthorses.
2. Andrey is the only creative outlet of class
3. Pace is an issue
Why don't we opt for a more defensive 4-5-1, with Arteta and Song anchoring, Theo and AOC wide with Andrey in the hole... or try something über classic... yep, I'm talking a 4-4-2. We could again have two anchors, like the classic Paddy and Petit with two zippy wingers in AOC and Theo with Andrey playing second striker to Robin. We could switch Arshavin with Thierry when chasing the game.
I'm not saying the above systems are the answer, then again, I'm not going to sit here and tell you flogging the same system regardless of personnel is the future of Arsenal's football. When we get into ruts like we're in at the moment, Wenger doesn't have a way out. He's incapable of motivating the players and the best we can hope for to change things up is a return from injury.
Typically, the manager was 'surprised' at what happened.
'There were some other turning points. When we came back to 2-2, straight away, a defensive mistake. It looked similar to me to Fulham. Lack of appreciation of the ball. Our defensive performance was not good enough and that’s why we lost the game.
“We made defensive mistakes that you should not make. In the last two games we made mistakes that, at that level, are difficult to explain. It is unbelievable. For a team of that experience, for a team of that ambition, it is difficult to explain."
He also went on to lambast our attacking play. How can the manager of a team who have conceded 31 goals in little over half a season and been largely dependent on one man in attack claim 'surprise' at results like that?
Wenger for me is lost at the moment. He's struggling to get the best out of players he banked on being legends, he's despondent about the transfer market (hence why he's still living in 2002 with transfer fees) and his tactics are too rigid for the quality of squad. We're in a right old mess that I fear he won't be able to rectify until the summer.
It's also worth noting Thierry got into an altercation with a fan. I don't know the ins and outs... but it doesn't look good after being back all of 6 minutes does it? Apparently Thierry had to force some of the players to thank the away support, which resulted in a fan accusing the team of lacking passion. A fair accusation. I'd be saying they lack appreciation of what an arse ache it is to get to Swansea and have yourself presented with that dross. Things have changed since Thierry upped sticks and left a few years ago, much like revisiting an old relationship... things are rarely the same again.
On the injury front, don't get your hopes up. Jack will be back mid-February at the earliest. Most likely the end of. We'll find out today when Arteta is back later on today I'd imagine, but my gut feel is that if Wenger said he was rested (which he wasn't), then the injury must be very minor. Still, Santos should be back in the country soon and Vermaelen and Sagna are close. Those two will be an absolute god send to get back in the side.
Oh, and on the transfer front, I've heard this new left back we're trialling is a midget. Smaller than Gael Clichy and built like my nan after her annual bikini crash diet. Superb... can you believe we're stooping this low?
Anyway, United up next. Brilliant.
P.S. You might want check out this stadium review of Highbury. I'm so depressed today, that feels like something I could do and enjoy.