By Richard Clarke at the Liberty Stadium
Arsenal were beaten by a classic sucker-punch at Swansea on Sunday.
- Mertesacker 76
- Benayoun 63
- Walcott Goal!
- Arshavin 63
- van Persie (C) Goal!
- Rosicky 63
- Oxlade-Chamberlain 76
- Henry 63
- Agustien 46
- Sinclair Goal!
- Dyer 82 Goal!
- Graham 90 Goal!
- Sigurdsson 46
- Routledge 82
- Lita 90
Having withstood significant second-half pressure from the Welshmen, Arsène Wenger's side seemed to have grabbed a lifeline when Theo Walcott converted Johan Djourou's throughball to make it 2-2 after 69 minutes.
The goal would consign Arsenal to the seventh defeat of their Premier League campaign.
Robin van Persie's fifth-minute strike provided the perfect start to the North London club's first trip to Swansea in almost 20 years however the hosts were soon level via Scott Sinclair's penalty.
The visitors started the second half well but Dyer's goal pegged them back just before the hour. Then came that quick exchange of goals.
It leaves Wenger's men fifth, four points adrift of Chelsea, and in need of a quick reversal of fortune.
However that will be a tough ask as Manchester United are due at Emirates next week.
Between Friday's press conference and Arsenal's arrival in Wales, Mikel Arteta had picked up a calf injury. As a result, Yossi Benayoun came into central midfield this afternoon.
After the defeat at Fulham on January 2, Wenger had also lost Francis Coquelin to a hamstring injury, Gervinho to the Africa Cup of Nations and Johan Djourou to a red card. The Swiss defender saw out his suspension in Monday's win over Leeds in the FA Cup and therefore returned at right back. The hero that night, Thierry Henry, was back on bench while the season's hero, Van Persie, was back up front. Ignasi Miquel filled in at left-back while Andrey Arshavin was in front of him.
And it was the Russian who set up Arsenal's opener this afternoon.
After only five minutes, he sent Van Persie's down the right-hand channel. The Dutchman hesitated momentarily and, with the angle narrowing, it seemed his chance had gone. However the 28-year-old squeezed his shot between Michel Vorm and the post. It was Van Persie's 18th Premier League strike of the season, equalling his best tally ever in that competition.
Swansea had been Scrooge-like at home this term; their tally of four goals against could only be equalled by leaders Manchester City. They also did not score many so the early strike seemed significant.
However Arsenal did not make their advantage count and the hosts were level by the quarter-hour when Aaron Ramsey swept away the trailing leg of Nathan Dyer. Sinclair beat Wojciech Szczesny from the spot.
The visitors nearly regained the lead immediately. Van Persie's shot rebounded to Ramsey. He fired across goal and, after a spot of pinball in the area, eventually the ball found its way back into the grateful arms of Vorm.
However, it was an isolated chance. After the goal, Swansea kicked on in search of the lead. Arsenal had to thank the telescopic legs of Per Mertesacker on a couple of occasions. The hosts were reflecting their reputation as neat, tidy passers with the priority to keep possession . Then they would quickly spring forward in numbers hoping to overman the opponents.
The Arsenal defence was stretched but not beyond breaking point. And, as the half-time whistle approached, Wenger's men grew in confidence.
On the half-hour, Benayoun found Van Persie in acres of space. The Dutchman collected the ball, advanced but blasted his effort straight at Vorm when you expected better.
Five minutes before the break, Dyer darted in from the right but fired down the throat of Szczesny.
However the final stages would belong to Arsenal. But the closest they came was when Arshavin's goalbound free-kick was flicked on by Walcott. Vorm plucked the ball out of the air.
The second period began in the same way. Walcott fired over in the opening seconds then Arshavin planted another shot high from just outside the area.
However Swansea responded in style. Dyer and Joe Allen both fizzed effort post the right post, then, just before the hour, they grabbed the lead.
Allen stole the ball from Ramsey as the Welshman looked to lead a breakaway. That advance meant that Arsenal were understaffed when the Swansea midfielder found Dyer on the right just outside the area.
He cracked his shot past Szczesny as the visitors scrambled back.
Wenger's reaction was immediate as Swansea began to look for a game-clinching third.
Arshavin and Benayoun - off. Tomas Rosicky and Thierry Henry - on.
Within six minutes, Arsenal had equalized. Djourou's long ball forward found Walcott in space. He raced through a clipped his shot over the advancing Vorm.
Given the pressure they had been under it was lifeline. However they would concede seconds after the restart when a throughball from Gylfi Sigurdsson drifted between Koscielny and Szczesny. The keeper initially came to collect and then went back allowing Graham to glide in and slide a shot just inside the far post.
Arsenal had to climb the mountain once again.
They might have got on level terms within minutes when a corner fell at the feet of Mertesacker six yards out. The German screwed his shot wide.
Wenger threw on Oxlade-Chamberlain with 14 minutes left and winger's first foray nearly brought a goal. Before that Henry had drifted a backward header over the bar.
Graham got in the way of the galloping Sinclair as the former Chelsea midfielder threatened a fourth. But, as the seconds ticked away, all the attacking came from Arsenal.
Four minutes from time, Oxlade-Chamberlain set up Rosicky to volley over the bar. Vorm saved from Koscielny and the Czech midfielder in the dying seconds.
However, this afternoon, time ran out on Arsenal.Copyright 2013 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 15 Jan 2012