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Wenger celebrates 800th PL match with a win

IN CHARGE: Arsene Wenger

A SECOND half turnaround kept Arsenal in touch with the top four and sent Swansea home with nothing. The Gunners’ performance was only occasionally fluent but produced goals from Sead Kolasinac and Aaron Ramsey to cancel out Sam Clucas’ opener.

Arsene Wenger could celebrate the outcome of his 800th Premier League match, which came two days after the club’s fractious AGM further betrayed shareholder unrest behind the scenes.

On the pitch, however, the Frenchman clearly felt he had hit upon something in last Sunday’s 5-2 skewering of Everton at Goodison Park . He reverted to that starting line-up, making 11 changes from Tuesday’s Carabao Cup defeat of Norwich.

As with that earlier game on Merseyside, Arsenal combined moments of attacking brilliance with individual errors and defensive incompetence. Unlike that occasion, Swansea gave a much better account of themselves than Everton had. They remain above the managerless Toffees on goal difference alone.

Wenger had called for the quick passing that lay behind Arsenal’s nine-game winning streak at the Emirates, but Swansea did not make it easy for their hosts. On another day they may have taken a point here.

At times it was nine players behind the ball for the Swans, who grew in confidence as the first half wore on despite the absence of a recognisable left-back in their starting XI.

In fact it was their stand-in for the afternoon, Clucas, who would give the visitors the lead on 22 minutes with a goal that demonstrated Paul Clement’s team at their all too fleeting attacking best and Arsenal’s occasional defensive ineptitude.

Laurent Koscielny failed to cut out Mike van der Hoorn’s pass and Tammy Abraham was well placed to slip an excellent through ball into Clucas’ path. Petr Cech, who did not seem to know whether to stick or twist, eventually came and Swansea midfielder prodded the ball through his legs.

Arsenal have often proven adept at conceding from the first opposition shot on target but this was Swansea’s very first touch in the north Londoners’ penalty box. Clement had said he was upbeat before the match and here was some justification.

Wenger’s charges tried to respond and it took a fantastic save from former Gunner Lukasz Fabianski to deny Alexis Sanchez five minutes before the break. But the better first half chances were Swansea’s

Clucas caused consternation moments earlier with a 25-yard effort and Jordon Ayew spurned an even better chance before the interval only for Cech to redeem himself with an intervention that bailed out Per Mertesacker in the process. All from a team with just seven league goals to their name this season.

Wenger had reason to expect more and in the 51st minute Arsenal were level. Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Sanchez, who were exceptional last week at Goodison Park, had emerged from the interval with a point to prove and were subjecting the visitors to severe pressure when the ball broke for Kolasinac to sweep home the equaliser.

Abraham immediately went down the other end and saw a goal chalked off for offside. The frustration was compounded for Swansea in the 57th minute when Kolasinac turned provider. The Bosnian cushioned Granit Xhaka’s chipped pass into Swans penalty area before teeing up the advancing Ramsey to push Arsenal ahead with his 50th goal for the club.

Hector Bellerin later struck the crossbar and substitute Olivier Giroud went close on occasion but Arsenal did not have it all their own way, with Abraham a persistent threat at the other end. For all that, there were no more goals and 2-1 it finished.

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