Henrikh Mkhitaryan must be wondering what he’s let himself in for at the Emirates as his first appearance in an Arsenal shirt ended in a dismal 3-1 defeat at Swansea.
The Welsh side have spent much of the season propping up the Premier League table but back-to-back wins against Liverpool and Arsenal in the space of a week have moved them out of the relegation zone into 17th spot.
“We are breathing again now, we are not dead any more,” said Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal, who’s done so much to revive the club since arriving at the end of December. “We’ve achieved nothing so far but we are on our way to achieving a good position.”
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Arsenal, on the other hand, are on the road to nowhere as long as Arsene Wenger remains manager. The club can spend all the money they like on Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who arrived in London yesterday and is expected to sign terms with the Gunners today, but the brutal truth is that as long as Wenger is boss they will continue to stagnate.
The sale of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United was supposed to have cleared the air at the Emirates but there was no evidence of a reinvigorated squad at Swansea. The players looked uninterested in contrast to the dynamism of their opponents.
“Swansea were sharp, disciplined and hungry,” admitted Wenger. “Unfortunately, I believe we were not good enough, I believe we were not disciplined enough...I felt defensively we were very poor and made big mistakes. It’s better not to talk about the second or third goals.”
What made the defeat all the more painful for Arsenal (who have won just three of 13 Premier League away games this season) was that they actually took the lead on 33 minutes against the run of play when Mesut Ozil’s perfectly judged pass was slammed home by Nacho Monreal.
One minute later, however, and the Swans were level when Sam Clucas scored the first of his two goals. In between them was a tap-in from Jordan Ayew, probably the easiest goal he’ll ever score and one that came courtesy of a howler from Petr Cech.
The Arsenal goalkeeper was put under unnecessary pressure by a thoughtless backpass from Shkodran Mustafi and, with three Swansea players then bearing down on him, he miscued his clearance kick straight into the path of Ayew.
“Although mistakes are part of the game I always expect 100% from myself,” Cech later tweeted. “And I’m not happy with the one I made today.”
Last night’s defeat leaves the Gunners stranded in sixth, eight points behind fourth-place Liverpool, who took three points from Huddersfield on Tuesday evening with a comfortable 3-0 win.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League for a second successive season, which now looks likely, would surely bring Wenger’s reign to an end, although rule nothing out from an Arsenal board who appear increasingly detached from the grim reality of the club’s situation.
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.