The match was eagerly anticipated as arguably the two most stylish top-flight clubs locked horns in the FA Cup for the first time since 1968. Disappointingly, the match failed to live up to its billing for the first half. Both sides were relatively quiet as the tie was largely contested in midfield and Arsenal were a little too ponderous in front of goal. Indeed, half an hour into the match, Arsenal displayed some wonderful passing to jig their way into Swansea’s penalty area and having created a clear goal-scoring opportunity, Aaron Ramsey failed to pull the trigger and the ball dribbled through to Michel Vorm. By this point it was clear that the visitors were missing the goal-provoking delivery of Lucas Podolski from the left. Moments later Santi Cazorla, who has faded on late, squandered a good opportunity to give Arsenal the lead as he blazed Kieran Gibbs’ clever cut-back over the bar. If Cazorla is to keep pace with the likes of Juan Mata and David Silva then he must rediscover his form imminently. Swansea also had their moments in the first half as Danny Graham controlled a wonderful long ball and held off Per Mertesacker to drive a fierce shot on goal and sting the palms of Wojciech Szczesny. The Swans were also unlucky not to take the lead after Kyle Bartley’s headed effort hit the crossbar to deny the ex-Arsenal man a goal. Swansea had picked up the pace in the final minutes of the first half but changes clearly needed to be made to provide for a more entertaining second half.
After a rather drab first half, both managers recognised that the game needed that extra bit of quality and Michael Laudrup responded first by sending on Pablo Hernandez and Miguel Michu. The latter had been on for less than 90 seconds before breathing life into the match with a fantastic goal. The Spaniard was composure personified as he casually volleyed a lose ball over the 6ft6 Per Mertesacker and turned to latch onto it before coolly slotting the ball into the back of the net. Arsenal struggled to wriggle their way back into the game and there were some really sloppy touches from the visitors but their fortune was about to change as Podolski replaced the ineffective Ramsey. Having missed an absolute sitter from six yards out minutes earlier, Podolski made no mistake when a half-cleared corner makes its way to the German, whose left-foot bullet gave Vorm absolutely no chance. Two minutes later, the Gunners fired themselves into the lead as Olivier Giroud and Kieran Gibbs played a one-two before the Englishman emphatically volleyed the ball into the roof of the net. But it was not to be a fairy tale ending for Arsenal, who have never failed to make it to the fourth round of the most famous cup competition under Wenger as his men succumbed to a late equaliser. Having opted for zonal marking, Arsenal failed both, to clear a Swansea corner and mark Danny Graham, who had time and space to fire past Wojciech Szczesny’s near post and earn his side a replay.
While Swansea have been in fantastic form this term and are challenging for silverware on two fronts, Arsenal should have done better to dispatch them. Cazorla was unable to pull the strings in midfield, while Giroud missed a string of gilt-edge opportunities to net for his side. None more so than in the 65th minute, when Ramsey drilled a glorious left-footed cross towards the Frenchman, whose headed effort from eight yards out dribbled well wide of the goal. With David Villa having fallen down the pecking order at Barcelona, Wenger must surely be weighing up a bid for Spain’s all-time leading goal-scorer. Not only will he bring a wealth of experience to a young Arsenal side, but he will link up brilliantly with the likes of Cazorla and Jack Wilshere to smash in a few crucial goals.
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