Swansea v Arsenal match report: No need for any panic at Liberty
Swansea City 1 v Arsenal 2
TIPPED to finish in the top eight, yet without a victory in eight home Premier League matches.
Swansea City's form on their own patch does not tally up with the various upbeat predictions about what they might achieve this season.
Arsene Wenger has joined the list of admirers, suggesting Swansea are good enough to end up seventh or eighth in 2013-14.
Wilfried Bony was feeling even more optimistic over the weekend, claiming sixth or even fifth place is possible for Michael Laudrup's men.
Yet Swansea have not won a top-flight game in their own backyard since Luke Moore's goal took them past Newcastle — and to 40 points for last season — back on March 2.
Since then there have been five defeats and three draws in SA1, the form of a team heading for the bottom six rather than the top half-dozen.
There are mitigating factors. Swansea have played some high-calibre opposition during the winless sequence — the two Manchester clubs, Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal twice.
Only Southampton (0-0) and Fulham (0-3) were fixtures where Swansea began as favourites to triumph, and each came after Laudrup's team had achieved their goals for last season.
After defeat by Arsenal on Saturday, Swansea can at last look forward to a few more Liberty fixtures where they will not set out to slay giants.
Sunderland, West Ham, Stoke, Newcastle, Hull and Everton visit before Christmas, and it is time Swansea began stamping their authority in Landore once more.
"Of course there is an explanation if you look at the teams we have played at home," Laudrup said.
"But for the majority of the squads, we need to get most of our points at home and every away win is a bonus."
Aside from European successes, it is Swansea's form on the road which has ensured no panic at the start of this season.
They lost at White Hart Lane in the opening week, but have since chalked up impressive successes at West Brom and Crystal Palace to make it six points from nine outside Wales.
It would be unrealistic to expect Swansea to continue with that sort of return, so fortunes must change when they run out on familiar turf.
"The home form is not a worry," Laudrup added. "We have won our two European home games, and we only look at this new season as far as the Premier League goes.
"The three teams we played were top teams — first the champions, then the other two were top of the table when they came here, so you know it will be difficult.
"Of course we would like to win at home, though, because it is important.
"It is a little strange for us that we haven't won at home for three games, even if the games were against top teams. And although we have done well away, I still think teams like us need to get majority of points at home.
"Having said that, I prefer to win against Crystal Palace than Arsenal and West Brom instead of Liverpool or Manchester United."
In six league fixtures to date this season, Swansea have beaten the two teams they might be expected to overcome.
There has been no glorious result against one of the heavyweights, but Swansea only tend to get one or two of those a year. If they are to end up in the top five — and it is a huge if — Swansea will need to improve that ratio.
But their early-season struggles on their own territory are not enough to suggest that the top eight is out of the question.
Swansea, as Laudrup would say, must beat the teams in their 'league' to achieve their goals this season.
So far they have done exactly that even though the two games in that category were away and on the back of long European trips.
The time to worry about their record in SA1 will be if results do not improve over the next few months.
"We have had a tough start at home, but we cannot change that," Laudrup said.
"And we have the same number of points now as we had at the same stage last year."
Swansea could have had more — there were chances to beat Liverpool late on, and they might have snatched a point against Arsenal this weekend.
Instead Arsene Wenger's 17th anniversary as Arsenal manager was marked with a narrow win.
Could Swansea complain? A little, perhaps, for they competed with the Gunners for large swathes of the game.
Yet it was Arsenal who created the clearer opportunities, and hence they departed with a club record-equalling eighth successive away league victory.
Swansea were depleted, with Ashley Williams and Angel Rangel joining Pablo Hernandez on the injured list.
Garry Monk and Roland Lamah are also in the treatment room, meaning the manager's options were limited.
Arsenal were missing a bunch of players through injury too — including the likes of Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain — yet Wenger was still able to field a side dripping with class.
Against this class of opposition, Swansea need to be somewhere close to their best if they are to chalk up a result.
On Saturday, they were not. Swansea played okay, passing the ball around neatly enough as they enjoyed the lion's share of possession.
But Swansea were opened up a little too easily at key points in the game and, for the most part, their forward play lacked the quality to trouble an Arsenal side who had plenty of players defending their penalty area.
Both rearguards had been comfortable enough in a first half which was short on action, Olivier Giroud dragging the only genuine chance wide of Michel Vorm's post in stoppage time.
This was a warning to Swansea — but it was one they failed to heed.
Serge Gnabry had a half-chance early in the second half but shot too close to Vorm.
The teenage German was more clinical on Arsenal's next attack, driving home his first senior goal having been teed up by Aaron Ramsey.
If Arsenal's former Cardiff international enjoyed the assist, he was even happier four minutes later.
With Swansea wobbling, Wenger's team missed a golden chance to double their advantage when Ramsey fed Mesut Ozil but Vorm saved brilliantly to deny the £42 million former Real Madrid man.
Ramsey showed his new team-mate the way to do it, rattling his eighth goal of the season high into the net after Giroud and Jack Wilshere had led a swift Arsenal counter-attack.
With Bony and Alejandro Pozuelo on from the bench — and Arsenal perhaps content with their two-goal lead – the tide of the contest now turned.
Swansea finally found some attacking impetus, with Bony and Nathan Dyer both forcing decent saves from Wojciech Szczesny.
The Arsenal keeper had no chance eight minutes from the end, when Ben Davies capped his latest impressive display with a fine second goal of the season.
Swansea's left-back galloped all the way to the edge of the Arsenal area before a neat one-two with Bony allowed the young Welshman to knee the ball into the net.
Now Laudrup's team had a chance to salvage something, but Arsenal soaked up the late pressure to keep their place at the top of a Premier League table which has an unfamiliar look right now.
"The team who played the best football against us was Manchester United in the first game, and look where they are right now," Laudrup said.
"It is very unusual that they have the same points as us after six games.
"And if you go back a month and a half when Arsenal lost their first game against Aston Villa, all the experts said they would struggle this year but now they are top."
The top flight is still taking shape because it remains very early in the season.
Hence it is too soon to read much into Swansea's struggles at home.