AYEW MISS PILES THE PRES­SURE ON SWANS

Wales On Sunday - - SPORT SUNDAY -

SOME­TIMES, small mo­ments can sum up the big­ger pic­ture.

Here at the Emi­rates, there was a mo­ment where it looked as though Swansea City were ready to add to their top-flight scrap­book of shocks and scalps.

Al­ready 1-0 up with half-time mo­ments away, Jor­dan Ayew had the chance to tee up a sec­ond and put Swansea on course to record a fourth win at the Emi­rates. To put that in con­text, only Arsenal them­selves have achieved more Premier League vic­to­ries at the ground.

In­stead, Ayew tried to take the chance him­self rather than set up the open and ex­cel­lent Tammy Abraham. Petr Cech saved. Arsenal, spared, scored twice within 20 min­utes of the sec­ond-half.

The miss proved to be a defin­ing mo­ment – and now you can’t shake the feel­ing that Swansea are now ap­proach­ing a defin­ing mo­ment in their sea­son.

Even with their record here, noone re­ally ex­pected any­thing dif­fer­ent. The away win that seemed a pos­si­bil­ity after Sam Clu­cas’ 22nd-minute opener would not have been on many bet­ting slips.

But it doesn’t change the fact that, with eight points from the first 10 games, Swansea now have to de­liver when there is op­por­tu­nity. If be­ing edged out against Arsenal is dis­ap­point­ing, erring in games deemed to be ‘winnable’ – if there is such a thing in the Premier League – would be dev­as­tat­ingly defin­ing for the win­ter months ahead. Swansea’s next three fix­tures are Brighton, Burnley and Bournemouth, two of which are at home.

Paul Cle­ment will be all too aware. Whether fair or not, the nar­ra­tive of pres­sure will get louder and nois­ier if Swansea are un­able to step up and meet the forth­com­ing chal­lenge head-on.

There were signs that they are quite ca­pa­ble of do­ing so. For 45 min­utes you couldn’t help but be im­pressed by the way Swansea went about their task, their tenac­ity, dis­ci­pline and ea­ger­ness to counter quickly. Arsenal were made to feel anx­ious in a way that their North Lon­don ri­vals were not. This was not de­fend­ing by park­ing the bus at Wem­b­ley as it was in the 0-0 against Spurs a few weeks back. This wasn’t a drilled at­tempt to cling on, but an ef­fec­tive set-up to get at Arsenal.

There were rea­sons to be im­pressed. Cle­ment had done his home­work, Tom Car­roll had stepped up from re­cent per­for­mances, while Ki Sung-Yueng showed a bit of fire in his belly that makes his pres­ence in the mid­field a vi­tal one.

Clu­cas, too, of­fered plenty in his deputis­ing role as wing-back, fi­nally un­wrap­ping the dy­namism he showed at Hull and is ca­pa­ble of bring­ing this side, de­light­fully fin­ish­ing when played through by Abraham.

The Chelsea striker was an­other who im­pressed, test­ing Troy Deeney’s ‘Co­jones’ the­ory about Arsenal’s de­fend­ers, re­fus­ing to give them a mo­ment’s piece and do­ing it with plenty of skill and in­tel­li­gence as well as ef­fort.

But, for all that, that sin­gle mo­ment as Ayew failed to hand Abraham the chance to make it 2-0 de­fined where Swansea are right now and why a defin­ing pe­riod awaits: full of en­deav­our, lack­ing in enough qual­ity when it counts.

It is not to blame Ayew, but rather to sum up Swansea’s sit­u­a­tion. The ef­fort con­tin­ued, but the mis­take­free dis­play could not. Al­fie Maw­son con­tin­ued his strug­gles, not deal­ing well enough with some scrappy Arsenal play in the box be­fore the ball fell to Sead Ko­lasinac, who lashed home.

Kyle Naughton of­fered lit­tle apart from an op­por­tu­nity for Arsenal to ex­pose his flank, Le­ory Fer’s abil­ity to in­fu­ri­ate with his in­con­sis­tency not help­ing mat­ters down that side.

He can aid the side – as he did with his in­volve­ment to give Clu­cas and Abraham the chance to re­take the lead only for the striker to be de­nied by the off­side flag – but he can also hurt it with poor de­ci­sion-mak­ing on the ball. You can say the same about Naughton, Ayew and oth­ers.

Aaron Ramsey had helped Arsenal slightly change their ploy and up their tempo after the break to take ad­van­tage of the weak spots in Swansea. He de­servedly fired the hosts in front after 58 min­utes.

Yet the Wales play­maker would have ac­knowl­edged that Swansea, in the main, used the ball well, were or­gan­ised and were only bro­ken when they dropped their con­cen­tra­tion for a small pe­riod.

The next chal­lenge is dif­fer­ent, though. Swansea have shown be­fore un­der Cle­ment they are ca­pa­ble of stop­ping, scar­ing and some­times shock­ing the big­ger op­po­nents.

At home, against sides in Swansea’s ‘mini-league’, the onus is dif­fer­ent. The pres­sure will be on Swansea to be on the front foot, to deal with the ex­pec­ta­tion. They should take con­fi­dence from this that they are able to.

How they deal with it will de­fine the sea­son ahead.

Tammy Abraham shows his frus­tra­tion after Jor­dan Ayew’s miss

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