A horrendous ricochet in the Arsenal goal mouth in the last minute of ordinary time allowed the Swans to grab a draw after the Arsenal took the lead with two quick second half strikes, following a first half goal for the visitors.
A re arranged fixture, from February, saw Arsenal try to regain some League composure after the annihilation suffered at the bus stop in Fulham at the weekend.
A bigger environmental difference there couldn’t have been compared to the previous home fixture, the Saturday lunchtime FA Cup draw which was played out in spring sunshine and warmth.
On this occasion a bitter wind blew around Ashburton Grove and was felt by me especially in the upper tier, Clock End where I took my seat and looked to gauge the mood of the crowd.
The general consensus was that only the FA cup and a fourth place spot would be enough to prevent serious disquiet amongst the fan base, an opinion voiced by various voices up and down the Holloway road, after the match, whether by the door man at The Bailey pub or the girlfriends of Arsenal supporting blokes trying to rationalise what the season had become.
The Welsh contingent of supporters we’re largely quiet until they scored, quite odd for supposedly hard core away support; and when they did sing it was in their native tongue which no one else understood or wanted to understand.
The home side started the first half with tentative moves attacking the goal at the Clock End however it was clear their confidence had been shaken by the effects of the previous game.
The corners that were gained came to naught, even Santi was affected by this hesitancy as many of his deliveries failed to pass the first man.
Another predictable side effect of the previous game was whenever Gibbs got on the ball the “Come on The Ox” calls were heard.
From virtually the first Swansea attack a lofted cross resulted in the opening Swansea goal, to my eyes it looked like the BFG was out jumped and that Chesney was rooted to his spot by the subsequent header; two poor pieces of play one might say.
Cue the Welsh corner waking up and time wasting from the Swansea goalie.
It was gratifying to see that the home crowd whistle at any suggestion of time wasting by the opposition goalie as was seen soon after the Swansea goal which has not always been the case. This seemed to have some effect as by about the half hour mark Vorm’s time wasting seemed to have been curtailed.
Going into half time, while Arsenal probed and pushed for an opening the frustration was kept in check even though there was a short burst of booing on 45 minutes that could not be dismissed.
With the start of the second half Arsenal seemed to be knocking at the door of an opening and the Swansea goal lived a charmed life due to good saves from Vorm or threaded through balls just failing to find Olly or whichever of the midfielders had dared to go forwards, usually this would be Rosický was the most attack minded.
Whilst the Ox was having a mixed game, occasionally looking dangerous and then trying some heart attack passes, he was surprisingly taken off not much later than 10 minutes into the second half and replaced by The Pod.
Lukas soon made an impact as just as the frustration at the over-elaboration of many attacks was starting to peak a quick advance by Gibbs, running towards the North Bank, was followed by a cross the pod latched onto and scored the equaliser.
The relief all around was topped when, seconds later Olly poked home to put the home side in front and stun the away support.
A nervy win looked on the cards so then on came Källström for Rosický and in the short time he played he seemed to keep it simple, intercept well and make some no nonsense clearances as well as some clever medium range passes. It would’ve have been great to see what his set piece delivery was like as the team are in dire need of someone who can hit a decent free kick.
As some of the early departees set off with the score at 2-1 it looked like the Arsenal were pushing for a third yet the vulnerability of a counterattack was there.
Swansea were happy to take long range strikes and one shot from Shelvey, his bald shining pate glistening in the floodlights, arced away from goal three quarters of the way through its flight, so the warning signs were there. There was no shortage of quick passing and energetic bursts forward from the Swansea attackers as they fought for a way back into the game.
A late break down our left flank, which appeared to follow a straight channel in the line of my sight, saw some neat passing result in some penalty are space for a Swansea forward; a misunderstanding between BFG, Chesney and Flamini saw a combination of unlucky deflections guide the ball into the Arsenal goal. On no, I thought, a Desmond (as in Tutu/2-2), horrendous.
In the moment Flamini’s head dropped, as he realised we’d dropped two points, the pathos of his reaction made me realise how much it hurt him, and I felt sorry for him.
I admire his street fighting, terrier-like tenacity and he’s the last player I’d want to suffer such a crushing piece of bad luck.
A body blow and the chap in the row in front of me, who had seemed to be developing a migraine with the frustration of watching our play deteriorate during the game, whacked his chair shut in frustration as the net rippled below us.
The nature of the crowd was a touch more schizoid than in previous games because, for example, at the restart after the equaliser and seeing 4 minutes of injury time being signalled there was a surge in crowd volume urging us on to score a third yet when forward play broke down groans and unhappy declarations of a players, or the whole team, incompetence rang out all through the game.
Despite the clear need to score the Arsenal pressure failed to be decisive in the final third; this highlighted the need for a top line striker to scare opposing defenders with his trickery. Olly is not that type of striker and despite his goal on the night replacing him with Sanogo did not change the attacking threat.
At the final whistle the away team were still looking dangerous on the counter attack but the score stayed at 2-2 and some kind of fracas kicked off amongst the Swansea players and match officials.
Plaintive chants of
intermingled with murmurings of discontent as the Arsenal supporters filed out at full time and slowly, and fitfully, merged and dissolved into the chill night air.
By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)