This was intended to be the beginning of Arsenal's comeback, a riposte to the statisticians who had been totting up the verdict on the club's season so far and reached a gloomy conclusion: the worst points return of the Wenger era. A response to the naysayers, the "Wenger out" bloggers, the endless questioning headlines. Having won only three out of nine home games in the league Arsène Wenger had made it clear: this, the first of four home games this month, had to be a win.
Instead Arsenal were ripped apart at home by a team who at the start of this season were dubbed relegation fodder, but have quietly worked away on the kind of harmonious, effective, play that Arsenal were once famous for, and now desperately lack. In effect the Gunners were, quite simply, out-Arsenal-ed by the opposition.
While a morose Wenger faced the media after the defeat, admitting that "we are guilty of losing a game, we should not have lost" and wondering aloud why his team appeared to play "with the handbrake on" when at home, Michael Laudrup, the man in charge of Swansea's fluid progress, appeared bright, intelligent, energised and articulate. In short, the kind of manager Wenger was once hailed as being.
While Laudrup, relaxed and smiling, luxuriated over his win, Wenger was forced to field critical questions. Did Swansea deserve to win? "Yes." Is that frustrating to admit? "It is very frustrating but it is the truth." How did he feel hearing the players booed by their own fans? "I can understand that." Is this the most testing period of his 16 years at the club? "Yes, but we can turn it round and I'm confident we will."
What gives him that confidence? "The quality of the players and the spirit we have in the team, it's a good moment to stick together." Is it painful to be 10th in the league? "Of course," the Arsenal manager said quietly. "But I'm not so much worried about the places, even if that's not the place you want to be. I believe we need to get the quality of our game back, that's much more important and then the places change."
Finally, the endlessly repeated question: does it cross his mind that his time at Arsenal is coming to an end? "Not at all, no. I believe it's a good opportunity to show we are a strong club."
But for a genius £2m signing in Michu, the kind of signing Wenger himself likes to make, Arsenal might just have escaped with their third consecutive draw of the week. But just two minutes before the end the Spaniard took his formidable goal tally to 10, and then 11. The 26-year-old sent the travelling fans into ecstasy with two runaway efforts that left the Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny on his own against the in-form striker. In such a position, there was no doubt that Michu would profit.
The game had been billed as the prettiest fixture of the day but it was strictly one-sided as Swansea alone exhibited the Arsenal mantra: victory through harmony. Early on Angel Rangel forced Szczesny into a double save. Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski both had chances to score but Swansea had the more definitive opportunities – Michu's flick-on prompting Nathan Dyer to run half the length of the pitch, shrugging off challenges from a back-pedalling Arsenal line with only the captain Thomas Vermaelen saving the home team's blushes with a crucial intervention, before Ashley Williams's free-kick skimmed the roof of the net.
Arsenal opened the second half with more confidence, the game springing into life as Cazorla forced Gerhard Tremmel into a save. But despite the renewed energy Arsenal could not dominate. Soon after, the crowd got to their feet shouting for a penalty as the substitute Olivier Giroud was floored by Swansea's last man, who had already steered the ball to safety; Mark Clattenburg waved play on. Minutes from the end, Ashley Williams, played a dainty one-two that almost snatched Swansea the points, before a Vermaelen effort gave Arsenal fans renewed hope. But it was not to be.
Michu needed only two chances to beat the hosts. Wenger could only look on in despair.