By Chris Harris at Emirates Stadium
Arsenal’s Premier League frustration continued as Swansea City came from behind to win at Emirates Stadium.
But Swansea equalised against the run of play, Wayne Routledge racing through to beat Petr Cech.
Instead, they were left without a point as Ashley Williams converted Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick from close range.
On a night of frustration, news filtered through that Tottenham and Manchester City had both lost. But Arsenal could not capitalise. The pendulum has swung back in Leicester’s favour in this unpredictable title race.
The Gunners are by no means out of contention but their next fixture may be a decisive one - at White Hart Lane on Saturday.
SETTING THE SCENE
The last Premier League game at the Emirates ended with scenes of jubilation thanks to Danny Welbeck’s dramatic winner against Leicester City. But that joy had turned to anxiety by the time Swansea arrived in north London.
Arsenal’s defeat at Manchester United drew criticism and undid some of the hard work from that victory over the leaders. The pressure was on to respond with a win that would keep the Gunners in touch with Leicester and Tottenham - and ahead of Man City.
Wenger made three changes to his side - one of them forced.
Laurent Koscielny’s mild calf problem saw Per Mertesacker return as captain for his 100th appearance at the Emirates. Giroud and Campbell replaced Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck as Wenger shuffled his attacking options.
The game started with a downpour. Arsenal started on the front foot.
The cohesion, missing at Old Trafford, was there. The determination, undoubtedly, was there. The Gunners clicked, and chances flowed in a one-sided first half.
Giroud was in the thick of the early action, shooting straight at Ashley Williams and twice getting into good positions inside the box without managing to trouble former Gunner Lukasz Fabianski.
Alexis, searching for his best form, completely missed a volley from Mesut Ozil’s flick-on. But the Chile star regained his composure and the ball, and curled a shot against the far post. The rebound bounced into the grateful Fabianski’s arms.
Arsenal’s attacking play continued to flow. Campbell, a menace to debutant left back Stephen Kingsley, burst inside his marker and picked out Hector Bellerin for a cross, but Giroud couldn’t apply the finish.
When the goal came, it was no surprise that Campbell was responsible. Alexis dinked a ball into the box and the Costa Rica forward converted beautifully, sliding to meet the pitch of the pass and turning his foot to angle a half-volley beyond Fabianski.
Fabianski spilled a long-range effort from Bellerin, grabbing the loose ball just before Ramsey pounced. And then, out of nowhere, Swansea levelled.
Leroy Fer’s fizzing shot ended their dormancy, then Routledge collected Jack Cork’s pass to run through and beat Petr Cech, with Arsenal crying out for a free-kick after Jordi Amat tangled with Ozil.
The home side were back at square one but went close to retaking the lead before the break, Giroud hammering Mertesacker’s knock-down against the crossbar.
Tottenham were losing. Man City were losing. What an opportunity for Arsenal to transform the top of the Premier League table.
They set about keeping their part of the bargain but found Swansea a rather more adventurous foe after the break, Sigurdsson’s half-time introduction giving the visitors another creative force.
Arsenal would need to be patient - never easy as the minutes tick by.
Alexis was first to go close in the pursuit of a winner, fizzing a low shot wide after cheating down Ozil’s corner. The pair almost combined moments later, Ozil delivering a trademark free-kick from the right that just eluded Alexis’ outstretched leg.
With 25 minutes left, Wenger made his first move - Welbeck on, Campbell off. Seconds later Sigurdsson slalomed past Cech but just missed from a narrow angle.
The home fans tried to lift their team. Then Giroud was barged in the back. Free-kick Arsenal. Alexis curled one… the shot took a deflection and cannoned off the crossbar.
Frustration was setting in, and it got decidedly worse when Sigurdsson swung in a free-kick and Williams bundled the ball past Cech.
Fabianski saved Giroud’s header as Arsenal looked to respond, and Nacho Monreal got forward to sidefoot a half-chance over the bar.
Wenger brought on Walcott for Alexis in one final throw of the dice, but the Gunners could not prise open a stubborn Swansea rearguard.
The north London derby is next. It could be a season-defining one.
- Mertesacker (C)
- Alexis 74
- Campbell 64 Goal!
- Walcott 74
- Welbeck 64
- Williams (C) Goal!
- Ayew 89 Yellow Card
- Routledge Goal! Yellow Card
- Fer 70
- Ki 46
- Rangel 89
- Fulton 70
- Sigurdsson 46