MAN OF THE MATCH: Jack Wilshere
MAN OF the match Jack Wilshere scored an 86th minute winner against a tired Swansea City to put Arsenal into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The England man, who dictated the match throughout, fired home the clincher that the home side thoroughly deserved after dominating the second half. Only Swansea’s outstanding keeper, Michel Vorm, kept his side in the game as the Gunners turned up the heat during one of the coldest nights of 2013.
Arsenal’s quest for a silverware after the best part of ten years, surely lies with this competition. They are the second most successful club in FA Cup history. Their 10 wins are eclipsed only by the 11 of Manchester United and their 17 appearances in the final, topped by United's 18. This third round replay win keeps their season alive after seeing off feisty Swansea.
Four goals were shared in the initial tie at the Liberty Stadium, and three of those came in a frantic six-minute spell at the close of the game when Swansea striker Danny Graham got the vital equaliser to force this replay. The winners will visit Newcastle's conquerors Brighton in the fourth round
After the Football Association’s 150th anniversary launch earlier in the day there is a massive extra incentive for this year’s FA Cup winners; whichever teams reach May’s Cup final will go down in history.
The first half started with Swansea signalling their intent early, in-form Danny Graham firing wide early on.
Arsenal certainly showed much more intent than they did in their regulation 2-0 home loss to champions Manchester City last Sunday. Olivier Giroud headed over and fired wide after two great assists by Theo Walcott during the initial skirmishes.
But while Arsenal looked comfortable, unlike their 2-0 home league defeat to the Welshmen last month, there was still clear and present danger from the visitors.
Twice only last ditch interventions by captain Thomas Vermaelen denied the pacy Nathan Dyer who was looking to pounce in the penalty area.
A Francis Coquelin shot tested Vorm in the Swansea goal but it was City who came closest to breaking the deadlock when former Gunner Kyle Bartley saw his header hit the bar
Just seconds before the half-time whistle Arsenal had their best chance. After a Walcott corner caused havoc in the City area, Vermaelen’s shot was saved by the leg of Vorm.
Walcott, clean through, missed horribly minutes into the second period after a tidy Abou Diaby pass. Diaby and Coquelin looked a decent midfield axis for the home side in the absence of playmaker Mikel Arteta.
Thereafter Walcott’s shocker it was a case of Arsenal against Vorm, with the City keeper winning most of the battles.
Giroud, who set up Wilshere’s winner with a neat pass, missed a header after a Walcott corner.
In a one-sided second half there were a catalogue of Arsenal chances. Danny Graham appeared to handle a Walcott effort off the line while the England man clipped the ball wide of the post when presented with another gilt edged opportunity.
Walcott was denied by Vorm time and again as the visitors rode their luck.
But despite Vorm’s heroics it seemed just a matter time before the Gunners fired truly.
Then up popped the outstanding Wilshere. Job done for Arsene Wenger’s men.