Nine years ago to the day, Swansea City AFC were bottom of the Football League while Arsenal FC sat proudly on top of the Premier League. A yawning 90 places separated the two but the gulf between the clubs has narrowed to the extent that the Swans can now take on and beat the best.
Swansea's 3-2 victory over the Gunners on Sunday was the most spectacular confirmation so far that their return to the top flight after an absence of 28 years is unlikely to be a one-season waltz on the big stage. It lifted them into the top half of the table, two points behind another of this term's success stories Norwich City FC – two promoted sides showing they can prosper among the elite.
As well as accumulating enough points to keep the threat of an instant return to the second tier at bay, Brendan Rodgers's charges have performed in a style that has made people sit up and take notice. Building on the favourable foundations that Roberto Martínez put in place before departing for Wigan Athletic FC, the Swansea manager has his team playing with admirable fluency and with the courage to stay faithful to the methods that won them a promotion play-off triumph at Wembley last May.
Sunday's game at the Liberty Stadium was billed as New Arsenal against Old Arsenal because of the intricate way the hosts keep possession and patiently build their attacks. Every player demonstrates a comfort on the ball and a willingness to find space to provide an outlet. Aided by Arsenal's recurring frailties in defence, Swansea showed over the course of the 90 minutes that they can overcome the masters of the passing art, a victory that gained even more merit marks after Robin van Persie's fifth-minute strike.
"When you go a goal behind at home against a team like Arsenal, it puts you under immense pressure, but I thought the way we managed that pressure was fantastic and to eventually get the goals we did was great," said Rodgers. "
At the beginning of the season there was a lot of lazy journalism because people who were paid to talk about Swansea did not even know the names of our players. There was talk about us having a swagger but no substance but hopefully over these few months we have shown we are here to fight."
Employing a broad brush through the dynamic wing skills of Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer, who were responsible for two of the goals that downed Arsenal, Swansea dazzle with aesthetic qualities. But they also work hard to get the basics right; before Sunday's fixture they had conceded only four goals in ten home league matches.
"Hopefully, we've shown we're not just a team that has style and quality in possession, but also resolve and resilience," added Rodgers. "
We'll always have that confidence, to play and pass and move. It's something we all inherently believe in and we've had success with it. Sometimes we make mistakes, but I've got a great belief that we can play and pass, even against the best teams."
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