Wenger rebuilds with substance over style
Arsene Wenger puts all his stock in style - but only the substance of this desperately needed victory would do for Arsenal against Swansea.
Wenger says he could write a book about a summer he jokingly claims prepared him for a journey to Hell. At least he had a happy, not to mention lucky, tale to tell as Arsenal got their first win of the season.
This was hardly heavenly, indeed for long periods in the second half it was ugly, but it was sweet relief from the football firestorm that engulfed the Gunners in the 8-2 defeat at Manchester United.
Arsenal's manager has spent much of the early weeks of a traumatic season cursing his ill-fortune, so he grasped gratefully at the break offered when Swansea's excellent goalkeeper Michel Vorm inexplicably hurled a clearance against Angel Rangel just before half-time.
The rebound fell invitingly for Andrey Arshavin, and on such narrow margins games are won and emotions around a club can change.
Wenger complained that nerves brought on by an awful start and abject humiliation made Arsenal's performance "handbrake-ish", although even that was an improvement on the emergency stop at Old Trafford.
Events have moved frenetically since then, with Wenger raiding markets at home and abroad to sign Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta, Yossi Benayoun, Andre Santos and Chu Young Park.
Mertesacker and Arteta got the full 90 minutes, while Benayoun played 28 minutes as a substitute. Clearly, these are early days for definitive judgements, so what were the early impressions?
Arteta, the 29-year-old Cesc Fabregas-lite, started his Arsenal career with a slalom run and a threaded pass which should have brought a goal for Aaron Ramsey. He faded as Arsenal retreated, but showed enough intelligence and quality in possession to suggest he will be a neat fit.
The Spaniard still has to prove he can pull himself out of something of a decline since a serious knee injury suffered playing for Everton at Newcastle in 2009, but there is real quality in his play.
Mertesacker was calm and composed and, at 6 ft 6 ins, adds presence and, self-evidently, aerial threat in both penalty areas. He got caught on his heels once when Danny Graham brought a brilliant early save from Wojciech Szczesny, but had an otherwise pleasingly uneventful debut.
The German, however, will need help against the quick darting movers of the Premier League in the mould of Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and Javier Hernandez. This type of player may present problems but a performer of such extensive international experience should not be underestimated and Wenger has time to find a solution to that.
Benayoun's performance was brief and breezy. The suspicion is that this is the role he will fulfil, the experienced impact substitute rather than a regular starter.
Wenger added five players to his sqaud following the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford Photo: Getty
Wenger, who at last had the smile of the victor back on his face, drove right at the problem he needs to solve at Arsenal and which was not cured by this victory.
"Confidence goes quickly and comes back slowly," said the Frenchman. "We are not used to being in this situation.
"When you don't win you have a deep problem, but the longer it lasts the deeper the problem is."
It is only through wins that this self-belief, that started to fracture in the Carling Cup final loss to Birmingham City, can be pieced back together.
Victories, and of course the return of a raft of the injured such as Jack Wilshire, Thomas Vermaelen and Abou Diaby, as well as the suspended in the shape of Gervinho and Alex Song, will assist the process.
On the evidence of the early weeks of the season, and the rampage from Manchester United and Manchester City, Wenger may have to settle for a season of relative transition and a crack at a cup competition because his new signings will not make this Arsenal into a title-winning side.
The realistic target for Arsenal this season is already a top-four place. The title will be beyond them and even new additions and the return of absentees will not alter that.
But at least the recovery process has begun and the sense of unease that had started to surround the Emirates has partially lifted.
And what of Swansea? Manager Brendan Rodgers was absent following the death of his father but he will receive reports about much that will please him. A major problem has arisen already, however, and that is the ominous zero in the "goals for" column.
Swansea are organised, they competed for long periods and play a game that is pleasing on the eye - but when the big moments and chances came along they were not seized upon. Graham was unlucky to see Szczesny save in the first half but he simply had to take the opportunity he missed in front of goal in injury time.
Rodgers is astute enough to be working on this problem because the time-honoured "we'd be more worried if we were not creating chances" mantra uttered by right-hand man Colin Pascoe after the game will soon wear thin with no points on the board.
And the frustration for Swansea is that they have real possibilities if only a solution can be found.
Sometimes style needs to be forsaken in exchange for grabbing that single chance that might just get your season going. Ask Arsene Wenger and Arsenal.