Unlikely heroes step up as Gunners record crucial win against the Swans

Second half dominance propels the Gunners to a crucial away victory against the 'Capital One Cup' champions Swansea..
The race to the top four has intensified more than ever as Arsène Wenger's men triumphed over a mediocre Swansea City outfit to find themselves only two points behind 4th place Chelsea, who have a game in hand.

The first half display by both teams was not the eye catching contest that everyone expected and was a slow paced affair to say the least. Arsene Wenger made three changes from the side that beat Bayern as Nacho Monreal found his place back in the starting line up with Kieran Gibbs being rested. Abou Diaby and
Wenger hails steely attitude
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also started in place of Aaron Ramsey and Tomas Rosicky. Wenger opted for the 4-2-3-1 with Chamberlain and Walcott providing the natural width in attack. On the other hand Michu started up front for the Swans as he took on his favourite opposition with Leon Britton returning to the heart of their midfield as Luke Moore dropped to the bench.

Arsenal started brightly with Chamberlain making an immediate impact as he cut past Angel Rangel and struck the ball sweetly, only to be denied by the bar. In the early minutes the Gunners looked like a side who meant business with neat passes and some good defending on display. The Swans managed to fight their way back into the game soon enough as they committed bodies behind the ball and stifled the Gunners' attack.

Michael Laudrup's men soon gained control of the game as the likes of Ki Sung-Yueng and Leon Britton started pulling the strings in the midfield. Some slick passing ended up with the South Korean midfielder threading a neat ball through to Rangel, but the latter scuffed his shot horribly wide as he was under immense pressure from two Arsenal defenders.

Swansea were presented with another gem of an opportunity as the in-form Carl Jenkinson sent in a poor pass just outside his penalty area which was intercepted by Jonathan De Guzman and the Dutch international slid the ball through to Michu who surprisingly failed to hit the target from 15 yards out. After a quick succession of chances for the Swans the game seemed to have come to a standstill with both sides failing to create. However the 'Ox' caught his manager's eye with another brilliant strike from 30 yards out but unfortunately for him, the crossbar intervened yet again.

The second half started in similar fashion, as the pace of the game seemed to be slower than what it was in the first 45 minutes. For the hosts Michu and Pablo Hernandez missed the target with a couple of speculative efforts and Arsenal themselves were not looking at their sparkling best.

Monreal opened his account at a crucial moment
Just when the tie lacked a winning moment, Arsenal's latest acquisition stepped up. Nacho Monreal scored his first goal for his new club after Santi Cazorla sent in a telling cross from the left which was poorly controlled by Olivier Giroud but Monreal managed to put the loose ball past a hapless Michel Vorm sending the travelling fans into a frenzy.

The former Malaga left back has been consistent since his arrival at the London club and made his most important contribution as he broke the deadlock against a stubborn Swansea unit. The Spaniard has been a very shrewd acquisiton by Wenger and is a quality addition to the Gunners outfit which is undergoing a transitional phase. Monreal has not really received the Red Carpet treatment after his arrival at Arsenal but his crucial goal would definitely make him the toast of the town as the Gunners went into the lead after 70 minutes.

Laudrup introduced the more attacking Luke Moore in place of a tiring Nathan Dyer. In the mean time Jonathan De Guzman made the entire stadium get off their seats as his free-kick was agonisingly close and hit the side netting much to the relief of Arsene Wenger. As the time ticked on Swansea committed more men forward and eventually paid the price as a swift counter attack saw Ramsey neatly pass the ball to Gervinho who slotted the ball home with aplomb. This would do boost Gervinho's confidence given that he is known to miss chances often. The Gunners eventually cruised past the injury time to register a crucial away win at Wales.

Santi Cazorla has been Arsenal's best buy this season

Though the Gunners failed to produce any clear cut chances throughout the game apart from Chamberlain's efforts that hit the crossbar, one man stood out in the colours of Red and White. It was non other than the little Spanish wizard, Santi Cazorla. The former Malaga man was almost involved in every Arsenal attack and was the chief orchestrator of the Gunners midfield. He has been leading from the front and has been the creative brain of the Gunners midfield throughout the season. Having started the season with a bang Cazorla along with Jack Wilshere have been the stalwarts of this Arsenal outfit. The Spaniard was a bit rugged in the last month but has come up with the goods on most occasions.

Cazorla has scored a maximum number of goals in a single season with his tally of 11 goals for the Gunners. The Premier League has reached its final stretch and the little wizard is surely not done yet. The diminutive midfielder's deft touches, powerful shots and raw pace has been tormenting opponents all over England. In the first half, his shot tested Vorm from outside the box but the goalkeeper did well to avert the danger.

Has Wenger finally had enough with the underperformers

In what will be another talking point, Arsene Wenger yet again left out captain Thomas Vermaelen and keeper Wojciech Szczesny. The two players have been underperforming lately and one thinks Wenger has finally given up on waiting for the players to hit a purple patch. The team performed incredibly well without the duo when they overwhelmed a much superior Bayern side earlier in the week.

Rumours linking Vermaelen with a summer move away from the Emirates are set to stay with the Belgian missing out on a starting place in the team, for the second game in a row. The manager has made it clear that he will not have any second thoughts on axing big name players if they underperform.

The Gunners are in a tight spot right now as they face their season's biggest challenge. The club is set to lose out on 25 million pounds worth of revenue if they fail to qualify for the Champions League and hence a top 4 finish is vital.

Wins against the mighty Bayern and Swansea is set to do a world of good for the morale of the team. The Gunners are currently 2 points behind Chelsea at fourth and four behind Tottenham at third. They will have to treat every game as a must win tie if they want to make an appearance in Europe's elite club competition for the 16th consecutive time. Have the Gunners really transformed into a more serious and competitive outfit? Only time will tell but for now Wenger and his men can afford a smile after an important win as they brace themselves for the challenges ahead.

Follow Abhishek Nair on 

How do you stay up with football when on the move? With http://m.goal.com –your best source for mobile coverage of the beautiful game.