Arsenal moved two points clear at the top of the Premier League after a stirring second-half spell gave them a 2-1 victory over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium. Goals from Serge Gnabry and Aaron Ramsey in the space of five minutes around the hour mark proved enough to get the win, despite a rousing fight back from the home side that featured a goal from Ben Davies nine minutes from time.
It certainly wasn’t a dominant display from Arsene Wenger’s men, but in many ways it was the performance of champions. Arsenal stepped up their level to get the goals they needed and then did enough to hold on for an impressive three points on the road against a good Swansea side. Meanwhile, Michael Laudrup will be encouraged by how his side were able to put so much pressure on their opponents late on but will maybe reflect that he should have been more positive in selecting the influential Wilfried Bony from the start.
The first-half had been evenly contested, with Swansea moving the ball well with their typically good passing. While Arsenal weren’t at their sharpest and their tempo was lacking, there was always the feeling that they had the potential to step things up and get the breakthrough.
The stalemate should have been broken deep into first-half injury time. The period had been extended because of an injury to Olivier Giroud and it was the Frenchman who dragged the best chance of the half wide after a fine burst and pass from Gnabry.
As the second half got underway, Arsenal’s intensity gradually increased before they ripped Swansea apart with a scintillating few minutes of play that ultimately decided the contest. The first goal had a sense of inevitability about it as Arsenal probed relentlessly toward the edge of the box. After some neat touches by Mesut Ozil, Ramsey fed a clever reverse pass through the Swansea defense to get Gnabry in behind, but played onside, and where Giroud had failed in the first half the German made no mistake in drilling a shot low into the far corner.
A second goal should have come even earlier than it eventually did. Ozil was played clean through on goal as Swansea’s defense capitulated, but Arsenal’s record signing tried to find the smallest of gaps at the near post and Michel Vorm was able to turn the shot wide.
But Arsenal were rampant and Swansea could yet do nothing to stem the tide. Soon enough the game-clinching second goal arrived, with Giroud, Ramsey and Wilshere all involved in another flowing break. Wilshere found Giroud in the box, who unselfishly laid the ball on for Ramsey and the on-form Welshman took a touch before firing high into the net to evade both goalkeeper and defender on the line.
With Arsenal stepping back off the gas, Swansea composed themselves before making headway into their deficit. Record signing Bony came off the bench and the striker was heavily involved. Indeed, Bony might have done better than allow Szczesny to make a comfortable save when latching onto an errant back pass by Wilshere.
But the Ivorian atoned by playing a crucial part in a goal that ensured a rousing finish to the contest. Davies cut in from the right, knocked the ball in for Bony and continued his run to get a delightful chipped pass back into the box. Per Mertesacker attempted to make a last-ditch interception but only conceded in sending it off the Wales international’s leg and into the net.
It meant an uncomfortable finish for Wenger, but, on a day in which four of Arsenal’s rivals dropped points, he should be wearing a broad smile of satisfaction.