Jack Wilshere’s late goal sent Arsenal through to play Brighton away in the 4th round of the FA Cup. The Gunners were the better side overall, with their second half display particularly pleasing.
The first half was fairly even and followed a similar pattern to the original tie. Like the first game, Michael Laudrup rested key players, including star man Michu. The Emirates was looking particularly empty, despite a strong Arsenal side playing. The ticket prices had put fans off on a night where temperatures were at -4 degrees Celsius in North London. A night indoors in the heat watching the game on your computer or television does sound a lot more appealing to many.
Arsenal started brightly though. Olivier Giroud had two chances in the opening 5 minutes, heading and firing wide as the Gunners looked to take advantage of a weakened Swansea team. Weakened they may have been, but Swansea’s makeshift side looked just as comfortable as the first-team would. Thomas Vermaelen’s last ditch tackle denied Nathan Dyer a chance at goal as the visitors gave a warning to Arsenal of what could come.
The hosts then created a few chances, with Abou Diaby seeing his shot blocked, Thomas Vermaelen’s free-kick going narrowly over the bar and Francis Coquelin’s powerful effort was then saved well by Michel Vorm.
Despite Arsenal creating most of the chances, it was Swansea who came closest to finding the back of the net in the first half. It gave me a strange sense of deja vu when Kyle Bartley’s header rattled the crossbar with Wojciech Szczesny beaten. The former Arsenal defender did the same thing in the game at the Liberty Stadium earlier in the month and came mighty close once again.
Nathan Dyer then saw his shot go over the bar via a deflection and it was Swansea who were showing attacking intent all of a sudden.
Arsenal nearly broke the deadlock on the stroke of half-time though. Theo Walcott’s corner found Thomas Vermaelen and the Belgian international was denied by Vorm’s legs.
The first half wasn’t bad, but the Gunners needed to crank it up a notch if they were going to avoid extra-time or perhaps even going out in normal time.
Five minutes into the second half and Walcott should have put Arsenal in front. Diaby sent him in the clear and despite close attention from Swansea defender Chico Flores, he stayed on his feet and got a shot in on goal. His shot went narrowly wide and summed up Walcott’s evening in general. Not a lot went right for him, but he kept plugging away to his credit.
Santi Cazorla’s stinging drive then went over the bar as Arsenal looked to end the tie in normal time.
Man of the match Jack Wilshere then burst through the Swansea defence to narrowly shoot wide, before he then forced a save out of Vorm, which fell to the feet of Walcott, who saw his shot blocked off the line by Danny Graham’s chest. Walcott really should have scored. Arsenal appealed for a penalty, but the officials got it spot on.
It was a really good spell for the Gunners and Giroud then saw his header headed clear by Leon Britton. Arsenal piled on the pressure as Walcott, Giroud and even Bacary Sagna had chances to give their side the lead they craved. Still it wasn’t coming.
Swansea then made a substitution to strike fear into every Arsenal fan’s mind. Michu was on for Graham with 20 minutes left. His arrival was greeted by a chorus of boos, as the Spaniard had scored 3 goals in 2 games against Arsenal going into this one.
Wojciech Szczesny had virtually been a spectator in the second half, but was called into action when South Korean Ki Sung-Yueng forced a good save out of the Pole. Arsenal’s defence fell asleep on the resulting corner and Chico Flores saw his header hit the side netting. The visiting fans thought it was in from where they were sitting in the ground and their cheers were greeted by sarcastic cheers from the home fans.
It appeared as though it was going to be one of those nights at Arsenal. They threw everything at Swansea and somehow hadn’t taken the lead. But with 5 minutes left, finally, the deadlock was broken. Giroud’s flick on from Cazorla’s pass set Wilshere up nicely to smash the ball past Vorm and send Arsenal through to the 4th round.
Arsenal deserved it for a much better performance in the second half and Wilshere deserved his goal too. He was Arsenal’s best player on the night and the fact he is signed up long-term is fantastic for the club. Without a doubt, he will be Arsenal’s captain one day and it appears as though he is Arsenal through and through.
A trip to Brighton in the next round is Arsenal’s reward, but they have a huge game against Chelsea and another London derby against West Ham before they travel to Brighton.