Ten-man Arsenal were able to edge past Swansea City in a 3-2 victory at the Emirates Stadium this Saturday, as the Gunners’ sixth consecutive victory in the Premier League sees them rise up to second in the table.
A first-half brace from Theo Walcott and a volley from Mesut Özil sent Arsenal on their way to gaining three more points, but a goal from Borja Bastón in the 66th minute, followed by Granit Xhaka’s dismissal four minutes later, set up a nervy end to proceedings in north London.
Arsène Wenger named an unchanged first-team for Swansea’s visit, following the late show at Turf Moor versus Burnley before the international break, and it didn’t take long for Arsenal to dominate proceedings early on.
The Gunners came close through Shkodran Mustafi’s near-post header against the bar in the 12th minute, but the visitors were also on hand to cause the odd spot of bother thanks to Leroy Fer, as his shot sailed over Petr Čech’s goal from the edge of the box.
Arsenal’s dominance continued and it wasn’t long before they made their large share of possession count, as Walcott put Wenger’s men ahead. A hopeful ball into the box from Alexis Sánchez found its way to Héctor Bellerín, but the Spaniard’s tame knock-down wasn’t dealt with by the Swans’ defence and left for Walcott to poke home the opener from three yards out.
The Englishman then continued to hand Bob Bradley a rude welcoming to the Premier League in the 27th minute, doubling his account and that of his team. With the visitors struggling to cope with Arsenal’s set-pieces, Walcott was on hand once more to take full advantage and fire home the Gunners’ second inside the area on the half-turn.
The Welsh outfit were handed an avenue back into the game, however, with half-time over the horizon, as Xhaka’s loss of possession on the edge of Arsenal’s box invited Gylfi Sigurðsson to fire in a curling effort on his left foot in the 38th minute.
Swansea might even feel as though they should have gone into the break level, as Jordi Amat’s header on the brink of half-time fell straight into Čech’s grasp.
The visitors’ threat persisted in the early exchanges of the second half, but it was the Gunners who landed the first significant strike at goal through Walcott in the 56th minute.
After a dazzling run from Alex Iwobi, his cross eventually found its way to Walcott dead-centre inside the box, but the winger’s first-time effort lacked the direction required to take it away from Arsenal’s old boy Łukasz Fabiański between the sticks.
The north Londoners were back little more than a minute later for some more action in the final third, only this time they’d come away with the desired result, as Özil amplified the scoring. With space on the edge of the box, a looped pass from Sanchez into the German’s path was thrashed in with a back-post volley.
Bradley made his first change soon after when bringing on Borja Baston for Leon Britton and the substitution proved to be an inspired one, as he finished off a move orchestrated by Modou Barrow in the 64th minute.
Arsenal’s route to victory was complicated further with 20 minutes to go, with Barrow again the centre of attention as he was brought down by a cynical tackle from Xhaka. The Emirates was left left stunned, as referee John Moss brandished a red card for the Switzerland international’s actions.
With the game opening up, Walcott came close to finishing off a counter-attacking move when his placed effort kissed the post in the 83rd minute, meanwhile at the other end, a header inside the box from Leroy Fer lacked the power to trouble Čech.
Swansea’s Federico Fernández fell to the same fate under similar circumstances shortly after, whereas Walcott was presented with one more chance for a hat-trick via Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the 27-year-old failed to keep his effort on target from close range in the last attack of a thrilling encounter.
Player Ratings: Petr Čech (6), Hector Bellerín (7), Shkodran Mustafi (7), Laurent Koscielny (7), Nacho Monreal (5), Granit Xhaka (5), Santi Cazorla (7), Theo Walcott (8), Mesut Özil (7), Alex Iwobi (7), Alexis Sánchez (6).
Subs: Coquelin (6), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (6), Gibbs (6)