The arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cannot come quickly enough for Arsenal.
Its 3-1 loss on Tuesday to Swansea, which started the match as the Premier League’s last-place team, punctured some of the optimism generated by the imminent signing of one of Europe’s most lethal strikers.
Aubumeyang flew to London earlier in the day to put the finishing touches to a drawn-out transfer from Borussia Dortmund that Arsenal hopes will be completed on Wednesday, the final day of the January transfer window.
He would be joining a team that slipped eight points off the Champions League qualification positions as a result of the chastening loss in south Wales. Arsenal has just 13 games to claw back the deficit, or it will be out of Europe’s elite competition for a second straight season.
Swansea midfielder Sam Clucas scored either side of a goal by Jordan Ayew following a dreadful error by Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech, who miskicked a clearance straight to the striker.
Olivier Giroud came on as a late substitute for what could be his last appearance for Arsenal, with Aubameyang likely arriving as a direct replacement for the France striker. Giroud waved to Arsenal’s traveling fans before the leaving the pitch after the final whistle.
Asked about the departure of Giroud and the arrival of Aubameyang, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said all will be revealed on Wednesday morning.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan played the final half hour in his first appearance for Arsenal since joining from Manchester United in a swap deal with Alexis Sanchez.
Fourth-place Liverpool capitalized on Arsenal’s slip-up by beating Huddersfield 3-0 away to move eight points clear of Wenger’s team. Emre Can, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah — from the penalty spot — were the scorers.
West Ham fought back to draw 1-1 with Crystal Palace in the other game, with Mark Noble’s penalty canceling out a goal by Christian Benteke.
CECH FRONTS UP
Cech took to Twitter straight after the match following his game-changing error at Liberty Stadium.
“Although mistakes are part of the game,” he wrote, “I always expect 100 percent from myself and I’m not happy with the one I made today.”
It was a particularly bad one, the goalkeeper getting his feet mixed up as he attempted to make a first-time clearance from a back-pass and only managing to offer up the easiest of chances to Ayew. The striker made no mistake from close range.
That made it 2-1 and Clucas scored the clinching third goal in the 86th, having got Swansea back into the game with the equalizer in the 34th. A minute earlier, Arsenal had taken the lead through Nacho Monreal, who converted a pass from Mesut Ozil.
“I felt defensively we were very poor and made big mistakes,” Wenger said.
Swansea, which followed up a 1-0 win over Liverpool last week, climbed out of the relegation zone and into 17th place in the 20-team league.
“We have a chance (of staying up),” Swansea manager Carlos Carvalhal said. “We are not in intensive care. We are not far away from the doctor saying we can go home.”
VAN DIJK LEFT OUT
Liverpool didn’t need its record signing to ease past Huddersfield and bounce back from two straight losses.
Center back Virgil van Dijk, the $100 million arrival from Southampton this month, started on the bench for the 3-0 win, with Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp saying it was a “physical thing.”
Emre Can opened the scoring with a fierce shot on the bounce from outside the area. Roberto Firmino doubled the lead on the stroke of halftime, squeezing in a finish from an acute angle, and Salah grabbed the third from the penalty spot for his 19th goal in the league.
Liverpool recovered from losses to Swansea in the league and West Bromwich Albion in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
“It was not a brilliant performance,” Klopp said, “but it was very mature and exactly what we needed at the right moment.”
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80