Swansea City 0 Arsenal 2 match report: Nacho Monreal keeps Arsenal in race for fourth place
Arsène Wenger congratulated his players after Nacho Monreal's first goal for Arsenal kept the club firmly in the race for a Champions' League berth next season. The ecstatic celebrations of the players highlighted just what it meant to the Gunners, and the victory was sealed in injury time by Gervinho with his first goal in the Premier League since September.
Wenger had secured the services of the 27-year-old Spanish left-back from Malaga in the January transfer window. Rather than maintaining Arsenal's pursuit of a 16th successive season among Europe's elite, Monreal could have remained in Spain with the prospect of a quarter-final against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions' League.
He was cup-tied for Arsenal's midweek win against Bayern Munich, but Wenger was grateful for his return after his left-footed strike in the 74th minute set Arsenal on their way.
It left Wenger in jubilant mood as Arsenal now lie just two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who face West Ham today. "The attitude of our players was outstanding even though our legs were a little less fresh," he said. "We kept going and refused to drop points. We knew what was expected and we gave absolutely everything until the very end.
"I have come out many times and said I'm a big admirer of the attitude of this team," he added. "Wednesday's big win has transformed the belief of the team, and we have struggled to find that this season.
"What we have done in the last three days is very difficult to do for any team. To win away in the Champions' League and then win away in the Premier League in the space of three days is difficult and I would like to congratulate the players for that. We will know how important this win is at the end of the season.
"We have shown we are up for the fight and we'll do that until the end of the season. One advantage for us is we know what is expected of us, we have already been in this situation before. We have the right spirit and attitude."
Everton's 2-0 win over Manchester City in the early game had increased the pressure on Wenger's team to achieve a top-four spot. Arsenal temporarily dropped to sixth place but, buoyed by their victory in Munich, they began powerfully and came close to taking the lead as early as the fourth minute.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who only came on as a substitute in the Allianz Arena in midweek and was one of two changes made by Wenger yesterday, cracked Michel Vorm's crossbar after beating Angel Rangel down the left flank.
Rangel almost made up for his mistake 10 minutes later. The attacking Spanish full-back latched on to Ki Sung-Yueng's through ball, but his wayward and sliced shot failed to test Lukasz Fabianski, who kept his place in the Arsenal goal ahead of Wojciech Szczesny following an excellent display and a clean sheet in Germany.
Swansea carved out an even better chance in the 17th minute. Jonathan de Guzman seized on a loose pass by the full-back Carl Jenkinson and found Michu, who spun to deceive Per Mertesacker only to see his left-footed effort go just wide of the post.
This was a free-flowing contest between two of the League's pass masters as the chances kept coming. Oxlade-Chamberlain smacked Vorm's woodwork for a second time with a 25–yard drive three minutes before the break.
The second half yielded few chances before Monreal struck with 16 minutes remaining. Gervinho then converted from Aaron Ramsey's squared pass following a rapid counter-attack to make the game safe.
The Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said: "I thought it would be a 0-0, but many times the first goal will decide the game. It was a massive game for Arsenal and they needed to win to make fourth spot and the Champions' League. For us, if you have ambition as a team to move on and be better then you have to do well both today and tomorrow."
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