Arsenal escaped from the Liberty Stadium on the shores of Wales with a 2-1 victory yesterday to go top of the table; here is what we saw that was little bit good, little bit with the handbrake on, and little bit below our usual standard.
-Jack Wilshere's second half. Invisible / a liability in the first half, Wilshere quickly turned things around in the second half and did work. A big part of the buildup for both Arsenal goals, winning the 50-50 that led to the second after Ramsey's flick, and generally much more involved and less risky.
-Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, and Kieran Gibbs. Mertesacker, one instance aside, was almost everywhere right yesterday, breaking up at least three attacks in the first half alone by just standing -- by just standing. Koscielny was invisibly good. Gibbo was basically unbeatable; Nathan Dyer only unleashed one shot in anger and largely never got behind the Arsenal defense. Gibbs also made one crucial tackle catching up to Dyer in the first half and snuffed out any opportunity.
-Aaron Ramsey scoring again and also everything else. His first half, like most of the team's, wasn't great, but his second half was quite a bit better. His pass for Serge Gnabry's opener was hilariously good; his flick to find Jack was very inventive if not perfect, and his finish in tight quarters was, well...yeah. Ramsey!
-Wojciech Szczesny's second half. The goal was a bummer, but Szczesny did mostly work otherwise--a couple of great stops on Dyer and Wilfried Bony, a boatful of claims in desperate times for Swans in the last 20 minutes.
-Width in the first half. Serge Gnabry did a lot of things right yesterday. A lot of things. But he and Jack Wilshere as wingers is a bit of an issue right now in terms of Arsenal's team shape. If Arsenal don't have width, they don't really stretch defenses, and they make it a lot harder on themselves in terms of generating chances when in possession. Needing to adapt without Theo Walcott around is a bit of an adjustment, to be sure.
-Wilshere's first half. Ugh. Giveaways, no movement...silly Jack. Also, stop passing the ball to Wilfried Bony (I know--second half. Still.)
-Whatever that backpass/Szczesny madness was in the first half. Honestly, sometimes I think Szczesny just gets bored and likes to amuse himself by seeing what craziness he can bring to the world. Then I remember he likes to win a whole bunch, and then I think he's basically actually maybe just an insane person. The backpass from Ramsey didn't help things, however.
-Nothing much except maybe that goal. That goal was an example of 1) switching off, 2) lack of communication, 3) failure to execute. That didn't happen again except for when Jack passed it right to Bony, but the once was enough to ruin my heart.