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Pitiful Arsenal lack edge and leadership as title hopes fade

Arsenal suffered at home. Photo: PA

By Will Unwin

Premier League champions generally have something in common and that is a ruthless streak, a factor, alongside confidence and leadership, that Arsenal lacked as their title challenge took another blow against Swansea.

Manchester United could dispose of teams at will, the Arsenal of Henry and Bergkamp would rip apart lesser opposition and Mourinho’s Chelsea would have little bother in dismissing mid-table opponents.

The only Arsenal player who spent the first-half against Swansea at the peak of his power was Joel Campbell who was given time and space in order to run with the ball, much of it thanks to Swansea debutant Stephen Kingsley at left-back.

Arsene Wenger wasn't in the mood. Credit: PA

Thanks to Swansea’s desire to sit back Arsenal overran the Welsh side for the opening 25 minutes, as Alan Curtis’ man could come up with a rebuke to the pace the Gunners operated at, but the possession in the final third rarely resulted in an effort on goal of note. When Swansea adjusted their formation there was no looking back.

Mesut Ozil tried to pull the strings but the puppets on this occasion were made of lead, staying static when a glimmer of movement could have offered an opening.

Campbell was rewarded for his work ethic and attacking approach to the game, something the rest of Arsenal lacked, when he latched onto a through ball to half-volley into the back of the net.

Per Mertesacker headed the ball down inside the box just before the break only for Olivier Giroud’s volley from eight yards to cannon back off the bar, as the Frenchman’s poor run in front of goal continued.

Arsenal lacked confidence on the night. Credit: PA

It was a very unlucky defeat. We created many chances, we were unlucky in our finishing. It was a very disappointing result, the players are very down.

– Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger admitted his team had lost some of their confidence following their home defeat to Barcelona, which showed the gulf in class between the two teams in full glare of a watching world. The Frenchman also believed recent criticism of his side would fire them up as they look for silverware, but instead they’re heading into the shadows.

Manchester United took advantage of this meek Arsenal at the weekend and Swansea sensed a chance to do the same at the Emirates. The Swans played on the break against Mertesacker and Gabriel who looked like rabbits caught in the stadium lights at times.

Passes went awry all over the pitch from the Gunners as composure and intensity were lacking in a team devoid of ideas, watching their title hopes slip away.

Ashley Williams netted the winner. Credit: PA

It’s not surprising that Arsenal played with nerves, as their fans repeatedly sigh and boo the happenings on the pitch. When Danny Welbeck arrived in place of the night’s star man, Campbell, the supporters booed in unison at another Wenger decision that irked the faithful.

When Ashley Williams put Swansea in the lead with 15 minutes to go some fans exited the second the ball left the defender’s boot to make it into the net, sarcastically applauding their beleaguered manager as they departed.

The unfortunate Aaron Ramsey went down in the area in the final minute hoping to earn his side a penalty and last-minute equaliser but Bobby Madley waved his claims away as another Arsenal failure sunk in.

It was a frustrating night for all of Arsenal. Credit: PA

It was a pitiful effort as Arsenal’s title challenge froze on a night when the weather was befitting the performance from Wenger’s side. The fans didn’t stay on in the belief they would equalise, they were waiting to voice their displeasure at a team who lack ruthlessness and cohesion in the season that should have seen achieve glory.

Wenger signed off his press conference by saying: "We won't talk about the title tonight, I'm not in the mood."

And he is unlikely to be in the mood again.