THERE is no respite for ArsÃ¨ne Wenger. Five days after seeing his side surrender a three-goal lead in the Champions League against Anderlecht, the Arsenal manager was forced to endure the painful sight of Swansea City scoring twice in three minutes to turn this game around and inflict a defeat that will prompt a fresh bout of soul-searching.
Leading through a fine breakaway goal from Alexis SÃ¡nchez, who has scored 12 in his last 14 appearances, Arsenal were on course for a much-needed victory until 15 minutes from time. They never looked comfortable and it was no real surprise â€“ especially on the back of imploding against Anderlecht â€“ Wengerâ€™s players were unable to see the game out.
Swansea, for whom Jefferson Montero was outstanding, levelled when Gylfi Sigurdsson curled a sublime 25-yard free-kick into the top corner, after Kieran Gibbs had cynically brought down Modou Barrow, the Swansea substitute. Re-energised by Sigurdssonâ€™s goal, Swansea sensed blood. Garry Monk, the Swansea manager, immediately made another change when he replaced Wilfried Bony with BafÃ©timbi Gomis and once again the substitution paid dividends.
Montero, who tormented Calum Chambers throughout, went past the Arsenal right-back with alarming ease before standing up a deep cross that Gomis, towering above Nacho Monreal, headed powerfully across goal and into the far corner. It was the Frenchmanâ€™s first Premier League goal since arriving on a free transfer in the summer. He had been on the pitch only two minutes.
Wenger responded by throwing on the cavalry in the shape of Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere but the damage was done. Arsenal, from leading 3-0 against Anderlecht with 29 minutes to go, and 1-0 against Swansea with 15 minutes remaining, have one point to show for their efforts. Wenger described it as â€œa very disappointing weekâ€. Some Arsenal supporters may not be so polite with their assessment.
Arsenal could have few complaints about the outcome. Although Swanseaâ€™s goals came late, there was nothing convincing about Arsenalâ€™s performance. They looked flat â€“ perhaps a legacy of Tuesday nightâ€™s travails against Anderlecht â€“ never got hold of the game in the middle of the pitch, where Wenger bemoaned the number of challenges that were lost, and threatened only sporadically going forward. Even SÃ¡nchez, whose goals seem to be carrying Arsenal at the moment, fell short of his usual standards. â€œNot one of his best games,â€ Wenger said.
It is Arsenalâ€™s defence who continue to come under the greatest scrutiny. With Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy injured and without cover, Arsenal have been left terribly exposed. Monreal looks uncomfortable at centre-half and was found wanting for the second goal while Chambers endured a chastening match. â€œWe were a bit struggling on the right side, but I have no experienced players on the bench,â€ Wenger said.
While the Arsenal inquest could go on and on, Swansea deserve immense credit for the way they exploited their opponentsâ€™ weaknesses. Despite their preparations being severely hampered by late injuries to Federico FernÃ¡ndez, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer, Swansea played with courage and conviction, no more so than when they fell behind . â€œWeâ€™ve got that inner belief and thatâ€™s what carried us through,â€ Monk said.
There was no doubting the star of the show. Montero, who played for Ecuador in the World Cup finals and joined Swansea in the summer from the Mexican club Monarcas Morelia, was a constant threat with his pacy runs on the left flank. â€œHe had everything today,â€ Monk said.
â€œHeâ€™s been working very hard on his game defensively but we all know what he can do offensively. He was probably the most consistent player on the pitch.â€
The game itself had been something of a slowburner, with the first real incident of note when Phil Dowd, the referee, waved away Swansea appeals for a penalty in the 21st minute, after Chambers appeared to push Bony. Marvin Emnes wasted a decent chance for Swansea, after Chambers had slipped over on the opposite side of the field, while at the other end Danny Welbeck was denied at the near post and Aaron Ramsey flashed a volley inches wide.
Arsenalâ€™s goal came from a classic counterattack. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain seized possession inside the Swansea half and moved the ball on to Santi Cazorla, who released Welbeck on the Arsenal right. Welbeck ran clear before checking inside Ashley Williams and rolling the ball square for SÃ¡nchez to sweep home. There was a time when Arsenal prided themselves on winning games 1-0 but those days are long gone.
Swansea should have levelled when Montero got to the byline for the umpteenth time and cut the ball back invitingly for Bony but he sliced his side-foot shot horribly wide. It was a reprieve for Arsenal but they were punished moments later when Sigurdsson struck a wonderfully placed free-kick beyond Wojciech Szczesny.
With Arsenal still reeling from that setback, Neil Taylor fed Montero and the winger left Chambers in his wake before crossing for Gomis to head home.
Man of the match Jefferson Montero (Swansea City) – The Guardian