Per Mertesacker demands improved defence against Bayern
Arsène Wenger admits he would settle for a draw at German champions
Petr Cech of Arsenal saves at the feet Swansea’s of Bafetimbi Gomis during the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium. Photograph: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images.
Swansea 0 Arsenal 3
Arsenal’s title challenger costume is looking ever more convincing. This result could have been different if debatable refereeing decisions had not gone in their favour, but ultimately Arsène Wenger’s men returned as comfortable winners from a trip that was as much a test of the strength of their character as of their squad.
Wenger’s team were beaten twice by Swansea last season and gaining vengeance, especially amid an injury crisis, is the sort of achievement that gives credence to suggestions that Arsenal may finally have the gumption to become champions once again.
It was also a fine way to banish memories of that feeble midweek elimination from the League Cup by Sheffield Wednesday. Only four of the players who began that non-performance were included in the starting line-up here, one of them being Joel Campbell, who, owing to multiple casualties on the right of Arsenal’s midfield, made his full Premier League debut four years after joining the club. The Costa Rican did well, and even completed the scoring with a crisp finish in the 73rd minute. Olivier Giroud struck the first early in the second half before Laurent Koscielny plundered a contentious second.
Confidence is soaring at Arsenal, but not to the extent that they think they can go to Bayern Munich and attack at will. On Wednesday, Wenger’s side will attempt to continue their Champions League recovery by beating the German champions again, but the manager admits he would settle for a draw.
Bayern are stuttering by their own extraordinary standards. After losing 2-0 at the Emirates a fortnight ago despite dominating possession, they won twice domestically before managing only a 0-0 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday, ending a sequence of 11 straight wins in the Bundesliga.
“They will be angry,” said Per Mertesacker of his compatriots. “We are the first team that really challenged them and beat them in the end. So they will try to show they are better than us. We showed that we can beat them. That’s a good sign but it will be a different game at their place. Both teams have got a good chance to go through to the knockout stages. We improved our position in the last game but we need to get something out of this game. That puts pressure on us to perform.”
Better defending has been a hallmark of Arsenal this year. They had to demonstrate their improvement again when they fended off a strong Swansea side before winning thanks to second-half goals by Olivier Giroud, Laurent Koscielny and Joel Campbell.
“It was impressive,” said Wenger. “If you look at our away results since the start of the season, we have won at Crystal Palace and at Watford, who you can see from the latest result are a difficult team to beat - so overall it looks like the team has stabilised and is growing as a unit.”
Koscielny, Petr Cech and Hector Bellerin were outstanding at the back for Arsenal, while Mesut Özil excelled in the second half after a quiet first period. But Campbell’s display was the most revelatory, as the 23-year-old shone on his first league start for Arsenal four years after joining the club.
Wenger praised the ability and attitude of a player who had previously asked to be sold as he sought first-team action but never sulked.
Arsenal are level on points with the leaders, Manchester City, and 14 points ahead of the champions, Chelsea. “It’s better I don’t talk too much about other teams,” said Wenger with a knowing smile. “Let’s focus on the quality of our game and keep a good balance between hunger, humility and confidence.” Guardian Service
SWANSEA: Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Shelvey, Ki (Britton 85), Ayew, Sigurdsson, Montero (Barrow 79), Gomis (Eder 85). Subs Not Used: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Cork, Bartley. Booked: Ki, Williams.
ARSENAL: Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla, Campbell (Gibbs 84), Ozil (Iwobi 90), Sanchez, Giroud (Chambers 84). Subs Not Used: Debuchy, Gabriel, Flamini, Macey. Goals: Giroud 49, Koscielny 68, Campbell 73.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).