LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 10: Per Mertesacker (R), Laurent Koscielny (3R) and Wojciech Szczesny of Arsenal (L) foil Danny Graham of Swansea City (2R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Swansea City at Emirates Stadium on September 10, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
1 - 0 Andrei Arshavin 40'
Arsenal held on for all three points today against a Swansea City side that kept ten men behind the ball for much of the match while looking for breaks through the pace of Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair.
The Gunners put out a starting eleven featuring two of the new summer signings, Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker. Arteta looked good combining with Aaron Ramsey and Robin van Persie to start the match, but it was Swans who produced the first real chance of the match seven minutes in when Danny Graham got a foot to a ball which Mertesacker thought he had covered, and Wojciech Szczesny made a great reflexive diving save to his left. Arsenal began to threaten as Arshavin roamed around the midfield, supplying a well-weighted through ball for Theo Walcott to run onto. Michael Vorm disrupted the shot just enough for Steven Caulker to slide in and clear off the line.
As the half settled, Arsenal looked to patient buildup play through Ramsey and Arteta, the latter looking very comfortable in the 4-3-3 at first. He would fade into obscurity as the half wore on, but that was no fault of his; Arsenal looked increasingly discombobulated after about the 20th minute. Part of the problem was that their usual pressing and through-marking game was nowhere to be seen today. Whether this is a moment of laxity or a new direction tactically is uncertain, but they were neither one thing, or another today, and Swans sat back and pinged long balls when they had possession.
Mertesacker stopped a counterattack dead in its tracks in the 26th minute and both teams exchanged corner kicks and counterattacks. Arsenal were having trouble getting midfield runners moving into the box, and Theo Walcott was yelling about this very thing when it happened.
Vorm picked up a wayward through ball, looked around, and rolled it to his defender, only the defender wasn't looking. The ball bounced off of his heels, and Arshavin immediately curled it expertly into the open net from a difficult angle before engaging in a typical Meerkat celebration. It was 1-0, a howler from Vorm worthy of an Almunia and a half, and the first half drew to a close.
The second half carried on in the same fashion, Swans getting the first good chance nine minutes in when Sinclair hammered a free kick off the crossbar. Robin van Persie then found himself some space and curled a right-footed effort off the post and out. Emmanuel Frimpong, who looked good defensively but a bit wonky with his passing and first touch on the day, had to clean up a mess that Arshavin left him with a bad tackle.
Yossi Benayoun came on for Arshavin in the 62nd minute, and immediately looked energetic. It will take time for he, Ramsey, and Arteta to build an understanding, but if they can play together, it will come. Graham headed over, and Mertesacker had a good step to break up another Swans attack as they found their way into the half. Francis Coquelin came on for Frimpong, and with ten minutes left, Marouane Chamakh came on for van Persie. He almost scored immediately, but his header was saved well by Vorm.
The last fifteen minutes ended up being squeaky bum time for Arsenal as they could not simply hold possession and starve the match out. In injury time, they had a glorious chance to put it away, but Aaron Ramsey somehow managed to find the "one" in a four-on-one that emerged following a corner, and Graham somehow hit a volley over from six yards with one minute left. Arsenal were finally able to ride out the last minute, and as the whistle blew, relief flooded through the Emirates. Three points, out of the basement, no injuries, let's move forward.
Things will gel.