It’s long been said that Arsenal can’t win on a rainy night in [insert city here]. Well, it was raining tonight in Swansea, and Arsenal definitely couldn’t win.
Arsenal just lost 3-1 to Swansea. Let that sink in. Sure, the Swans have looked better under Carlos Carvalhal, but Arsenal just lost 3-1 to a side that entered the evening dead last in the table. Arsenal conceded 3 to a side that had scored 15 goals all season. Arsenal made Jordan Ayew look like Leo Messi.
Arsenal lacked ideas in attack, structure in defense, and any semblance of coherent tactics. Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka, and Mesut Özil played on top of each other, clogging the middle of the pitch and making Swansea’s defending easy. Not only did their positioning limit their own time and space, it also left Arsenal woefully vulnerable to the counter. If not for several instances of last-ditch defending, the scoreline would have been even uglier.
Mohamed Elneny had a solid game. He made several of the last-ditch efforts to break up Swansea scoring chances. So what did Arsene Wenger do? Took him off in the 60th minute for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Let’s review. Arsenal were struggling on defense. Elneny was playing well defensively. The middle of the pitch was congested with three Arsenal CMs playing on top of each other. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a creative, attacking-minded central player. The substitution made zero sense, and Arsenal conceded a minute after it was made.
Arsenal conceded three error-ridden goals this evening, featuring mistakes that, quite frankly, should not happen at this level. The first goal was a Granit Xhaka special - he was (again) completely oblivious to a runner. His lack of defensive awareness has become a troubling trend and raises questions about his ability to play the deeper position in which Arsene Wenger seems determined to use him.
The second goal was just comical. Nacho Monreal threw the ball into Shkodran Mustafi under pressure. Mustafi played the ball back to Petr Čech under pressure. Čech swung and missed the pass back, gifting Swansea a goal. Three terrible mistakes.
On Swansea’s third goal, Mustafi was torched around the outside by Jordan Ayew. The German has had some strong games since coming back from injury. Tonight was not one of them.
The only bright spot on the evening was the goal that put Arsenal up 1-0. Mesut Özil created yet another moment of magic, serving a sublime ball to the back post for on-fire goalscorer Nacho Monreal to tap home. That sound you hear is Özil laughing as his price tag goes up and up. It’s also his manic laughter because that’s about all you can do in response to Arsenal right now.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won’t fix Arsenal’s problems. Arsenal have conceded the most goals of any team in the top 6, more than twice as many goals as Manchester United and Chelsea and almost twice as many as Manchester City. Signing him is like fixing the brakes on a car that won’t start - it’s something that should happen, but until the bigger problem is fixed, is worthless.
Oh, and Olivier Giroud was listless in what may have been his final appearance in an Arsenal shirt. Not a good outing for the Gunners. At all.