Arsenal at their lowest ebb after Michu double fires Swansea to famous win
Premier League: Arsenal 0 Swansea City 2
Arsene Wenger faced the wrath of Arsenal supporters again after Michu’s late double gave Swansea a stunning victory at the Emirates.
The Spanish striker scored twice in the final five minutes to condemn the Gunners to a fourth league defeat of the season, and pile the pressure on beleaguered manager Wenger.
The Frenchman had seen his side fail to inspire during 88 largely anodyne minutes, and then succumb to a pair of well-taken goals from the Spaniard, who increased his league tally to 10 for the season.
Swansea had certainly held their own and were worthy of a point, but the way they took all three added further fuel to the fire of disgruntled Arsenal fans who had demonstrated against the board before the game.
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They have plenty more to complain about now on the pitch too, as the Gunners dropped to 10th place in the table, five points off the pace of rivals Spurs in fourth place. At the moment Wenger’s record of always finishing in the top four in his 16 years in charge looks to be seriously in doubt.
After successive away draws at Aston Villa and Everton, Wenger had predicted that his side’s home form could now come to the fore and, with four games at the Emirates in December, propel them back into the top four.
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Given that West Ham’s lunchtime victory over Chelsea had sent them above both the Gunners and Swansea before kick-off, the need for three points was urgent, but winning football matches is seldom straightforward for Arsenal these days, it seems.
Arsenal had been forced into a number of changes in defence, with Bacary Sagna and Laurent Koscielny ruled out after picking up injuries at Everton meaning a return for Carl Jenkinson at right-back. Thomas Vermaelen moved back into the centre and Kieran Gibbs started at left-back.
Further up the field Lukas Podolski returned on the left flank with Aaron Ramsey dropping to the bench and Gervinho led the line in the place of Olivier Giroud.
Given that the last time these sides had met at the Liberty Stadium at the start of the year Arsenal had been completely outplayed in losing 3-2, the feeling of complacency around the Emirates was surely misplaced.
Swansea arrived on the back of a comprehensive win over West Brom and were not afraid to make the early running. The Welshmen should have taken the lead after 14 minutes when Michu found space in behind Gibbs, but Wojciech Szczesny blocked both his first attempt and his follow-up.
On the half-hour mark the visitors had another glorious chance, Michu’s header releasing Nathan Dyer, but the little winger took too long to pull the trigger and Vermaelen came back to save the day with a superb sliding challenge.
Arsenal had offered little. Podolski had a sight of goal but tried to manoeuvre the ball on to his favoured left foot and the chance was gone, while Gervinho was a whisker away from converting a Jenkinson cross from close range.
But the Gunners were struggling to dominate as they are used to at home. Swansea’s excellent Leon Britton and Ki Sung-Yeung were proving a considerable barrier in central midfield where Arsenal’s creative hub of Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla failed to get a grip on the game in the first half.
After the break one presumed Arsenal would turn the screw but after one hopeful penalty appeal by Gervinho and then another when Cazorla burst into the box, it seemed the Gunners were already getting desperate.
And Swansea were always a threat. Just past the hour mark Angel Rangel came forward on a surging run from right-back, twisted into the area and let fly with a shot that was deflected into the side-netting.
The Emirates crowd were getting frustrated and Wenger reacted by bringing on two players who many felt should have been playing in the first place, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Giroud, to replace the ineffective Gervinho and Podolski.
With 20 minutes to go and news filtering through of Spurs winning at Fulham, it was time for Arsenal to raise the tempo a notch, and a rasping shot from Cazorla was saved by Gerhard Tremmel moments after Giroud had tumbled theatrically in the box and, once again, referee Mark Clattenburg had waved away penalty appeals.
Both teams had played on Wednesday night and tired going into the last 20 minutes, but Arsenal’s need to find a winner was tempered by the fact that the Welshmen were on the same mission. With just five minutes remaining, Swansea’s two substitutes, Luke Moore and Dwight Tiendalli, exchanged passes and the latter was denied by an excellent save from Szczesny.
That was a warning for Arsenal and it was one they did not heed. Two minutes later Michu was bearing down on the Arsenal goal and the Spaniard made no mistake, curling a left-footed shot beyond Szczesny to send the visiting Swansea supporters wild.
Arsenal did not have long to find an equaliser, but instead they handed Swansea a second when Jenkinson was robbed on the right and Michu was calmness personified as he again ran clear and buried the ball beyond Szczesny.
The Polish goalkeeper was furious, as were the home supporters who streamed out of the stadium firing off angry words at Wenger and the board. A tally of 21 points from 15 games and mid-table – it is not good enough for Arsenal and everybody knows it, most of all Wenger.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Cazorla, Arteta, Wilshere (Rosicky, 79), Walcott, Gervinho (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 66), Podolski (Giroud, 66).
Subs not used: Mannone, Rosicky, Ramsey, Squillaci, Coquelin.
Swansea: Tremmel, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies, Dyer, Britton, Ki, De Guzman (Tiendalli, 74), Shechter (Moore, 66), Michu.
Subs not used: Cornell, Monk, Agustien, Richards, Donnelly.
Goals: Michu 88, 90
Referee: Mark Clattenburg