Pressure back on Wenger as Gunners all out of ideas

Much has been made of Alexis Sanchez’s transfer to Manchester United, the suggestion being that Arsenal have got the rough end of the deal by losing their best player.

And while Henrikh Mkhitaryan — who started on the bench here — and the incoming Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will surely improve Arsene Wenger’s side as an attacking force, this performance in Swansea did nothing to convince anyone that it’s not United who have been strengthened by the swap which remains the biggest deal of the January transfer window to date.

This was another reminder that the Gunners still need strengthening at both ends of the field. Simply put, Arsenal weren’t good enough and they deserved to lose.

“I felt defensively, we were very poor and made big mistakes. It’s better not to talk about the second or third goals,” said Wenger.

On the possibility of Borussia Dortmund forward Aubameyang joining Arsenal, he added: “We will know more about that tomorrow morning.”

And asked if Olivier Giroud played his last game for the Gunners, Wenger said: “It’s a possibility.”

The imminent arrival of Aubameyang, for a fee believed to be in the region of £55m, will be a big boost to the North London giants. He’s needed.

Here, Wenger’s side produced the sort of attacking performance which must make their fans tear their hair out.

First, Arsenal seemed to be crying out for the sort of imagination Mkhitaryan can provide. As the Armenian watched the first 45 minutes from the bench, you got the feeling he must have thought he could have had a bigger impact on the game than those on the field.

While it remains up for debate whether both the former Manchester United man and Mesut Ozil can fit into the same side given their dual preference for the No 10 position, it is undeniable that Arsenal need a new lease of life.

What must worry Wenger the most it’s that it’s not just in attack where new faces are needed.

In the first half here, Arsenal were neat and tidy — as they always seem to be — without ever truly giving off the impression of being entirely convincing.

In truth, for all the away team’s pretty passing, it was struggling Swansea who were the more dynamic. Ozil flitted around the field as if he expected things to happen for him, the German failing to show the sort of hunger which Mkhitaryan, who had been set for his debut, would surely have demonstrated.

Arsenal actually created very little of note before Nacho Monreal gave them the lead, converting Ozil’s cross at the back post.

Unsurprisingly though, it didn’t last long. Sam Clucas did brilliantly to level the scores, making the most of some woeful Arsenal defending to slot past Petr Cech.

For most of the first period Arsenal had actually struggled to create much, an almost criminal fact given their talent and the nature of their opponent’s struggles this season.

After the break, Swansea were the better side — as they had been before the interval.

Wenger sensed trouble and Mkhitaryan was finally introduced on the hour mark, replacing the workmanlike but limited Mohamed Elneny.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for the former Manchester United man because almost immediately Arsenal were 2-1 down, Petr Cech hacking at Shkodran Mustafi’s simple ball to give Jordan Ayew the simplest of finishes.

It was woeful, almost laughable stuff from the visitors, Wenger wearing a look of utter bewilderment on his face at the goings on in front of him.

Of course Mkhitaryan —who had almost nothing in terms of an impact on the game — could not be held responsible for the most basic of mistakes at the wrong end of the field.

And even though that was the silver bullet to Arsenal’s hopes of victory, the most real concern for their supporters must be that they didn’t manage to muster a response.

Nathan Dyer should have put Swansea further clear, grazing the post with an effort, but it didn’t make any difference to the overall result.

Arsenal passed and passed, but couldn’t find a way through and Clucas rubbed salt in their wounds late on with his second as Carlos Carvalhal’s side moved out of the relegation zone in the process.

The challenge for Wenger now is to get his side regrouped and quickly.

Mkhitaryan is too good a player not to make an impact in North London and despite a fee which might seem steep, Aubameyang is also likely to prove a fine signing.

But on this evidence, Arsenal need the man known best for his Spiderman mask to get up speed as quickly as possible because here, they looked miles away from potential title challengers.

Swansea (5-3-2):

Fabianski 7; Naughton 6, Mawson 8, Fernandez (capt) 7, Van der Hoorn 6, Olsson 6; Ki 6, Clucas 8 (Routledge 90,6), Fer 6; Dyer 7 (Carroll 83,6), Ayew 8 (Bony 88,6)

Arsenal (4-3-3):

Cech 5; Bellerin 6, Koscielny (capt) 6, Mustafi 6, Monreal 7; Xhaka 5, Elneny 5 (Mkhitaryan 60, 6), Ramsey 6; Iwobi 5 (Giroud 76,6) , Ozil 6, Lacazette 6


Lee Mason (Greater Manchester)


As Darina Allen marks 21 years of writing for The Irish Examiner, she talks to Ciara McDonnell about her amazing career.Darina Allen: you have to be aware of the impact you are making

More From The Irish Examiner