Aaron Ramsey's slump continues in Arsenal's home defeat vs. Swansea
Arsenal's season showed fresh signs of catastrophic collapse as they followed a Champions League defeat to Barcelona and a Premier League loss to Manchester United with a hugely damaging 2-1 home defeat to Swansea, which further erodes their title hopes.
On a night when Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur both lost, and 24 hours after Leicester City drew with West Brom, Arsenal cast three points aside in a game they dominated for prolonged periods, with the home fans reacting angrily at the final whistle.
Joel Campbell provided an early lift after the 3-2 loss at United in Arsenal's previous Premier League outing as he put the home side ahead with a superb finish from Alexis Sanchez's neat ball over the top after 15 minutes.
Despite their dominance, though, Arsenal were brought back level in somewhat contentious circumstances on 31 minutes. The home fans demanded a free-kick when Jordi Amat grabbed Mesut Ozil, but play continued and Wayne Routledge punished the distracted Arsenal defence with a low shot past goalkeeper Petr Cech.
The mood was turning sour at Emirates Stadium with fans lustily booing Arsene Wenger's decision to take off Campbell in the second half. It did not help that Arsenal kept hitting the woodwork: twice through Sanchez and once through Olivier Giroud.
And the fury intensified on 74 minutes when Swansea took a shock lead, Ashley Williams getting the ball over the line as Arsenal failed to deal with a free-kick from the right. A spell of late pressure could not bring the home side back into the game, their title challenge diminishing ever further.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Petr Cech, 5 -- The second Swansea goal came from a free-kick which flew past a number of players and gave Cech little time to react, but he still failed to deal with it properly, allowing Williams to bundle it over the line. Had been performing adequately until that point, but it was a crucial error.
DF Hector Bellerin, 5 -- The Spaniard enjoyed getting forward with regularity after being pinned back by Memphis Depay in the 3-2 loss to Manchester United at the weekend. However, his crossing wasn't precise enough when he did reach the final third, with Ozil letting him know as much. He was also caught out for Swansea's surprise equaliser.
DF Per Mertesacker, 4 -- Back in the side after being dropped for the match at Old Trafford, Mertesacker was supposed to infuse some composure at the back but in fact he seemed to freeze when Swansea poured forward for their equaliser, leaving a big space in behind for Routledge to attack. Another questionable performance.
DF Gabriel Paulista, 5 -- Was also culpable for Swansea's opening goal as Routledge drove easily between the two centre-backs to score. He fails to radiate calm. Arsenal's centre-back options need revising for next season.
DF Nacho Monreal, 6 -- A typical Monreal performance in that he didn't do much wrong, but didn't contribute anything spectacular either. Monreal looked rather less keen to join the attack than he has at times this season.
MF Francis Coquelin, 5 -- Playing alongside Ramsey is not a recipe for a success and how he must miss the injured Santi Cazorla. Coquelin was teased out of defensive midfield a bit too easily on occasion and failed to command the centre of the pitch.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 4 -- There were moments -- a quick turn past his marker, or a neat link-up with Ozil -- when Ramsey briefly looked like Cazorla, but a deep playmaker has to use the ball far better and there were groans from the stands when he repeatedly lost possession with sloppy passes. Has struggled of late and this was no different.
MF Joel Campbell, 7 -- Was rightly given a chance to impress after Theo Walcott's disappearing act in the 3-2 defeat to Manchester United at the weekend and took it well. Full of running, Campbell patrolled dangerously on the right and cut inside to good effect, one excellent run setting him free in the box to slide in, guide the ball back across goal and into the far corner for a brilliant opening goal. The fans were furious when he was taken off after just 65 minutes -- understandably so.
MF Mesut Ozil, 6 -- Was typically influential in the final third and kept finding space in the first half as he eluded Jack Cork and Ki Sung-yeung. A sumptuous and instinctive flicked header teed up Sanchez before he rattled the woodwork early on, while Ozil saw a firm effort of his own blocked. But his frustration grew as the game turned against Arsenal.
MF Alexis Sanchez, 4 -- Sanchez's form has been under increasing scrutiny of late but his wait for a first Premier League goal since October continued when he struck the post after 10 minutes. However, he did contribute a lovely assist when lofting the ball over the top to find Campbell's clever run. The Chilean's passing was typically all over the place and his torment deepened when a free-kick struck the top of the bar on 68 minutes. Was mercifully subbed.
FW Olivier Giroud, 5 -- The striker returned to the starting XI in the hope of ending his worst ever goalscoring drought at Arsenal, which was running at nine games. Infuriatingly, he smacked a firm shot against the bar after a neat header back from Mertesacker on 41 minutes and wasted a number of other chances.
FW Danny Welbeck, 5 -- On for Campbell in the 65th minute. Saw a late header squirm wide deep into added time but the striker was unable to make the desired impact after scoring against Leicester and Manchester United in consecutive games.
MF Theo Walcott, NR -- Replaced Sanchez in the 75th minute. Saw little of the ball in the time he was on the pitch.