Welcome back. So last night Swansea City – a relegation-threatened Swansea City – arrived at Emirates stadium, home of supposed title contenders Arsenal, resting several first-choice regulars including three of their back four, yet still managed to come from a goal down to secure what was ultimately a comfortable 2-1 win.
On a night when Tottenham lost at West Ham and Manchester City were beaten emphatically by Liverpool, this was our chance to both close the gap to the two teams above us, and put some significant distance between us and fourth-placed City. But once again, we came up short, clutching defeat from the jaws of victory.
We’d all speculated about how we might line up after Sunday’s similarly shocking loss to a mish-mash Manchester United team comprised of squad peripherals, utility men and unknown embryos, and there was a surprise when the teams were announced – there was no sign of Laurent Koscielny.
Injury ruled the Frenchman out so Gabriel retained his place and Per Mertesacker partnered him having sat out the defeat at Old Trafford. Further forward, despite many hoping Mohamed Elneny might be given his first-ever Premier League start, Aaron Ramsey retained his place alongside Francis Coquelin in midfield, Joel Campbell came in for Danny Welbeck on the right and Theo Walcott, unsurprising, vacated the striker’s role for Olivier Giroud.
We actually started the game pretty brightly but considering this was a much-changed Swansea line-up, in hindsight our opening wasn’t as impressive as it seemed at the time. Nonetheless, Joel Campbell was by far our liveliest player and duly marked his return to the starting line-up by giving us the lead on the quarter-hour mark, skilfully and cleverly half-volleying home from a tight-ish angle following a brilliant pass by Alexis Sanchez.
It was just the start we needed after two defeats in a row. But instead of building on that promising start, we conceded an equaliser just after the half-hour mark when Mesut Ozil was fouled in Swansea’s half and our defence stood still. Unfortunately for us, the referee didn’t view the challenge on Ozil as a foul and by the time we realised that, one of their players sent a straight-forward ball through the middle of our defence for Wayne Routledge to saunter onto, take a touch, give Petr Cech the eyes, and roll it past him effortlessly.
That was that until half-time and you’d have thought they’d be a strong response from us after the interval, what with us wanting to the win the game and challenge for the title and all, but if you did think that, you obviously didn’t watch us at Old Trafford because we got another lackluster second-half showing, which after Sunday’s shambles, this time, I was wholly expecting.
Arsene Wenger then went full masochistic-mode in the second half, withdrawing our best performer on the night in Campbell and replacing him with Welbeck, who to put it kindly, looked off-the-pace when he came on. The boos that greeted the substitution made the fans’ feelings deafeningly clear and when Walcott later replaced a struggling (by his standards) Sanchez a minute after we’d conceded the winner, strangely, both the team and and the terraces appeared resigned to the result. Never mind there were still fifteen minutes to play plus added time, it seemed the whole stadium had decided 2-1 is how the game would end. And so it did.
There were no ‘come on Arsenal’ cries, no meaningful response from the players, just a limp last portion of the game that ended with Cech going up for a corner and injuring himself as he sprinted back – the turd cherry, on the dog-food icing, on the rubbish-dump-salvaged sponge.
The full-time whistle blew, one (probably a number) of irate Arsenal fans near the dug-out seemingly aired their views and a clearly devastated, but defiant until the death Arsene, sarcastically gave them the thumbs up as he left. It was so sad to watch.
A man who ought to be feted for his work at the club is reduced to receiving vitriolic ridicule on a regular basis from an increasing section of his own club’s fan-base. I’m not saying Wenger’s faultless – far, far from it. The Campbell sub was weird, his faith in Ramsey as a central midfielder is, for me, as baffling as it is infuriating, but I still think he’s the right man for the job. Just my opinion mind – don’t have a baby about it.
We’re obviously in dire straights results and performances-wise, but in terms of the title, it’s not over until Frank Lampard sings. And I can’t hear the c*nt just yet.