We'll take it - of course we'll take it - but on another day we so easily could have lost this. Regardless, we find ourselves in second place only on a goal difference of one, so we can't have that many complaints at how it's all gone so far.
Our starting XI was the usual, so the main story was over on their mob's touchline. Bob Bradley, our old friend, became the first American to manage a Premier League match. Beforehand, I was telling people that I was confident that we'd get over our Swansea hoodoo, which for me was a question of timing. Bradley starting during an international break meant that it wasn't quite a new broom situation, but it was still too soon for him to stamp his authority on the team.
Unsurprisingly, Arsenal controlled the ball during the early stages, and even threatened early with a Shkrodan Mustafi header off the crossbar. Swansea offered little other than the occasional dangerous counter, usually through Modou Barrow out on the wing. Still, it was the Swans that fired the first warning shot, Leroy Fer blazing over the bar when he really should at least have tested Petr Cech.
It often is the case where the other guys score soon after you've squandered a chance yourself, and sure enough the Gunners were in the lead scant minutes later. It was a scruffy old thing too, but that's exactly the kind of thing we've been missing over the last few years. Hector Bellerin's cross looked like it was going to be cleared out by Jordi Amat - Lukasz Fabianski clearly thought the same. However, Theo Walcott came in and muscled the Spaniard off the ball (yes, really) before poking past a stunned keeper.
Fabianski was able to deny Hector Bellerin soon after with a fantastic foot-save, but he was fishing the ball out of his net once again seconds later. It was off of that corner where a Swansea defender got there first, but the clearance was poor. Walcott, in another bout of opportunism, backed in on it, chested it down, turned, and fired past Fabianski.
I don't know what on earth has gotten into Theo, but long may it continue.
At that point, I'd have said that we were fully comfortable at that point and in little danger of losing our grasp on the game. Of course, we never can do things easily though, and it doesn't help that the match officials seemed to catch a collective case of the derps all at once - more on that in a bit.
The derp was found in our defense first, though. This wasn't Granit Xhaka's best day, but this may have been the worst bit of the lot. He dallied on the ball deep in our half, and got his pocket picked by Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Icelandic striker took one touch, then lashed an unstoppable shot into the top corner of Cech's net.
While we've had about as strong of a start as you could ask for, Liverpool match aside, we're going to have to cut that kind of crap out of our game if we're going to seriously threaten for the title. Instead, Cech managed to send a weak kick-out right to one of theirs, which we happened to clear away...sooner after, Amat directed a header right at our keeper when it was probably easier to score.
Halftime was a blessing when it came, that's for sure.
The Swans were a bit frisky after the restart, but that was killed stone dead by a goal of the absolute highest quality from Mesut Ozil. The German had a good game already by this point, especially with his range of passing. This time, he ran onto a perfect long ball from Alexis Sanchez, and smashed a thunderbastard of a volley into the net at the near post. No blame for Fabianski though, from six yards out there's just no time to react.
Again, we looked comfortable. Again, Xhaka was in the thick of the reason why we'd soon not be. But, first, Swansea equalized when one of our center-halves (didn't see which, sorry) lost the substitute Borja Baston, who was able to side-foot through past Cech unmarked from six yards away. That was an inexcusable goal to concede, but it would only get worse from there.
A few minutes later, another break from Barrow (who had assisted on Baston's goal by the way - fair play to him, he had a stormer) saw him taken down from behind by our Swiss man. It was definitely a bad and reckless tackle, but it was not violent and and hardly the sort of thing where you'd worry for the health of their man. Definite yellow, for sure, but here comes Jon Moss waving a bit of red cardboard around. Unreal.
At this point, I have to get into the performance of the referee and his two assistants (in particular, the one on the half we were attacking in the second half). They missed so many obvious calls, it was astonishing. Walcott got elbowed in the face in the first half - nothing. Monreal got elbowed in the face in the second half - nothing. Xhaka's foul, which was a definite yellow card but no more - straight red. Two dangerous counter-attacks that we timed brilliantly - the dumbass AR raises his flag both times. It was shocking stuff at times, bordering on sub-professional.
That said, once the sending-off happened, we were all over the shop for a while there. Barrow missed an easy header, and Sigurdsson blazed over from in close. It was grating on my nerve-endings, that's for sure. Still, either of those improperly-called offsides, had they gone the other way, could well have put this game out of reach. Hell. Theo could have done it and bagged his hat trick to boot, but his angled finish unluckily hit the post.
As full time approached, I figured we might have to kill off 2 or at most 3 minutes of injury time, but these brain surgeons somehow came up with 4. Unbelievable. Still, the best chance came to Walcott, this time the crossbar intervened instead of the post.
Finally, after we'd all been through the emotional wringer, Moss did the best thing he did all day, and blew for full time.
Frankly, we kind of got away with this one today. Swansea came to play, and only some moments of opportunism and individual brilliance proved to be the difference. Still, it's nice to know that we're capable of that when the moment calls out for it. With City and That Other North London Lot all dropping points, this day definitely could have gone a lot worse.
There are stronger challenges ahead though, and holes to plug before we get there.
Man of the Match: Theo Walcott