Wednesday 24 January 2018

Swans pile woe on Wenger

Arsenal 0
Swansea 2

Anna Kessel at the Emirates Stadium

This was intended to be the beginning of Arsenal's comeback, a riposte to the statisticians who had been totting up the verdict on the Gunners' season so far and reached a gloomy conclusion: the worst points return of the Wenger era. A response to the naysayers, the "Wenger out" bloggers, the endless questioning headlines.

Having won only three out of nine home games in the league Arsene Wenger had made it clear: this, the first of four home games this month, had to be recorded as a win.

Instead Arsenal were ripped apart at home by a team that at the start of this season were dubbed relegation fodder, but have quietly worked away on the kind of harmonious, effective play that Arsenal were once famous for, and now desperately lack. In effect the Gunners were, quite simply, out-Arsenal-ed by the opposition.

While a morose Wenger faced the media after the defeat, admitting "We are guilty of losing a game, we should not have lost" and wondering aloud why his team appeared to play "with the hand-break on" when at home, Michael Laudrup, the man in charge of Swansea's fluid progress, appeared bright, intelligent, energised and articulate. In short, the kind of manager Wenger was once hailed as. To watch both managers in succession was surreal.

While Laudrup, relaxed, luxuriated over his win, Wenger was forced to field critical questions that flowed thick and fast. "We were not sharp," he said. Did Swansea deserve to win? "Yes." Is that frustrating to admit? "It is very frustrating, but it is the truth." Is this the most testing period of his 16 years at the club? "Yes, but we are in this job to turn it round and I'm confident we will."

What gives him that confidence? "The quality of the players and the spirit we have in the team." Is it painful to be 10th in the league? "Of course," the Arsenal manager said quietly.

Finally, the endlessly repeated question: does it cross his mind that his time at Arsenal is coming to an end?

"Not at all, no. You make your assessment at the end of the season. I know there's a lot of unrest everywhere but I believe it's a good opportunity to stick together and show we are a strong club."

But for a genius £2m signing in Michu, the kind of signing Wenger himself likes to make, Arsenal might just have escaped with their third consecutive draw of the week. But just two minutes before the end the Spaniard took his formidable goal tally this season to 10, and then 11. The 26-year-old sent the travelling fans into ecstasy with two runaway efforts that left the Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny on his own against the in-form striker. In such a position, there was no doubt that Michu would profit.

Michu needed only two chances to beat the hosts. Wenger could only look on in despair.


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