Swansea City 0-2 Arsenal: Crucial Late Strikes

Time is running out in Arsenal's mission to get back to the top four. Every dropped point from here until the end of the season is a potential season-killer, as evidenced by Everton's heroic defensive effort to beat Manchester City. Thankfully, two late goals allowed us to keep pace with the rest of the field, and puts some pressure on our nearest and dearest for their game today.

The manager largely kept faith with the eleven who so successfully raided Bavaria in midweek, with just Nacho Monreal and Abou Diaby coming into the team in place of Kieran Gibbs and Tomas Rosicky. As expected, Thomas Vermaelen and Wojceich Szczesny remained on the bench.

Arsenal largely stuck with the same tactical setup that undid Munich, and they could have taken a similarly-early lead with a little luck. Swansea packed their defenders deep in their half, so Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain decided to have a pop from long range. The ball fizzed past the beaten Michel Vorm, but unfortunately it rebounded off the crossbar.

That almost proved to be costly, as the only three chances of any note that Swansea could muster on the day all happened in a four-minute window soon after. First, Ki Seung-Yueng's excellent pass left Nacho Monreal for dead, but thankfully Angel Rangel could only shovel a tame shot wide.

Next, Michu couldn't get a volley from the edge of the box on target, but came a lot closer soon after thanks to a mistake by Carl Jenkinson. He horrendous cross-field pass just ahead of our penalty area was intercepted by Jonathan De Guzman, who played in Michu. You would have bet money on him scoring, but he didn't so much as test Lukasz Fabianski in the Arsenal goal, dragging his shot wide of the post.

The home side had much of the possession thereafter, but it was Arsenal who came closer to scoring through Santi Cazorla. He teed himself up for a half-volley and rocketed a dipping effort on net, but it was right at Vorm and ultimately comfortable for the Dutch keeper.

Swansea took control of the game again soon thereafter, but only passively so. I had been surprised as to how unambitious they were (it felt like the FA Cup win against them all over again), but it occurred to me that they don't have much left to play for this season. They have their trophy, they're safe in midtable, and are already in Europe thanks to that trophy win.

Meanwhile, Arsenal were mostly poor on the ball in the rare instances where they had it. Diaby in particular looked miles off the pace, and made one wonder why Rosicky wasn't back in the team after an excellent performance against the German champions-elect.

Halftime didn't do much to change the rhythm of the game. One early Cazorla chance aside, both sides canceled each other out. It should be said though that Arsenal were much better defensively, far more solid-looking without the captain in there. However, it should also be mentioned that Theo Walcott has been utter toilet since signing his new deal. He contributed nothing once again today.

Substitutions were not made until the 70th minute - insert my usual rant here. Gervinho and Aaron Ramsey came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain and the ineffectual Diaby. The former elicited the usual groans when he made a determined run forward only to play a useless pass across. There were better things to come from him, though.

There were better things to come from Cazorla too, as he orchestrated the opening goal that admittedly looked like it was never coming. He scything run from right to left took him past most of the Swansea defenders. His cutback to Ramsey on the back post was perfect, but Olivier Giroud intercepted it. The Frenchman did well though to play it back to Monreal, who demonstrated why placement is often superior to power. His shot threaded through a forest of bodies and then past the outstretched hand of Vorm. The Spaniard could not have picked a better time to open his Arsenal account, that's for sure.

Whatever fight was left in Swansea was killed off by the goal. The visitors had much of the ball in the final minutes of the match, and added gloss to the scoreline with an injury time counter-attack. Swansea poured attackers forward, but the play was broken up. The ball came to Giroud, who sprung Ramsey out on the right wing. The Welshman played it to the onrushing Gervinho, but the pass was poorly-hit and behind the Ivorian. It was a 2-on-1 though, so Gervinho had time to corral it, move forward, and slide a low shot past Vorm and into the net.

It's a St. Patrick's Day miracle!

Anyway, the win takes us back above Everton into 5th, two points behind Chelsea in 4th (though they have a game in hand). Our nearest and dearest are a further two points ahead in 3rd, again with a game in hand. Liverpool's risible loss to Southampton has opened up some welcome breathing room between us and them, however.

There isn't much else to say. Job done, with equally important missions coming up.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Fabianski 7, Monreal 7, Koscielny 7, Mertesacker 7, Jenkinson 7, Arteta 7, Diaby 5 (Ramsey 7), Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Gervinho 7), Cazorla 8, Walcott 5 (Gibbs N/A), Giroud 7

Man of the Match:   Not for the first time this season, Santi Cazorla was the engine that made us go.