Jack Wilshere shows Arsenal the way in FA Cup win over Swansea
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
FA Cup third round replay: Arsenal 1 Swansea City 0
Arsene Wenger had called on Arsenal fans not to expect too much from Jack Wilshere on the eve of this game, but the player who is fast-becoming the Gunners’ great hope emerged as the hero after finally breaking Swansea’s resistance with an 86th-minute winner to earn his side an FA Cup fourth-round trip to Brighton.
Wilshere’s fine left-footed strike settled a game that looked set to be heading for extra time after Arsenal had missed a succession of chances against a resolute Swansea side.
Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud had missed a hatful of chances between them before Wilshere showed them how to finish with a low shot from 25 yards that finally beat Swansea’s inspired keeper Michel Vorm.
Arsenal were well worth the win and their place in the next round, but the longer they failed to break the deadlock, the more the frustration grew at the Emirates.
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Sunday’s defeat to Manchester City had left many Arsenal fans dissatisfied and they expected an instant riposte against a Swansea side missing several regular starters.
Wenger had said he would field a strong side and was true to his word, although there was a reshuffle in midfield as Francis Coquelin came in to the centre alongside Abou Diaby and Wilshere and Santi Cazorla started on the left flank. Walcott, so disappointing up front against Manchester City on Sunday, was back on the right wing as Giroud started as the striker.
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Swansea on the other hand, opted for multiple changes with Spanish stars Michu and Pablo Hernandez on the bench, and defenders Angel Rangel and Ashley Williams left out altogether. It showed early on as they struggled to get a foothold in the game and Giroud had two half-chances he should have done better with.
Coquelin also saw a low shot well saved by Vorm, and when Diaby saw an effort blocked it seemed only a matter of time before the Gunners established a lead.
Swansea, however, then came within a whisker of doing that themselves when a free-kick was only half-cleared to Wayne Routledge, who curled in a cross which Kyle Bartley – who left the Emirates for Swansea last summer after five years spent largely in the reserves – headed against the crossbar.
That was a warning to Arsenal and seemed to liven up the visitors, who perhaps remembered how much they had dominated the league fixture here in December and the first cup game back in South Wales earlier this month.
Thomas Vermaelen had to be at his best with a saving tackle to deny Nathan Dyer, but Arsenal then had a chance to break the deadlock on 39 minutes when Wilshere surged into the box and the ball broke to Walcott who saw his goalbound effort blocked.
But the Emirates crowd, which was sparse in places – perhaps understandable given a run of five home games in 21 days – were growing restless. And when Cazorla opted to pass rather than shoot in first-half injury time the now familiar criticisms of over-playing rained down from the stands.
Even after that Vermaelen had a presentable chance to open the scoring when Swansea failed to clear a Cazorla free-kick, but his close-range effort was mis-hit and failed to find the net.
A little more urgency was needed and it seemed to be the case immediately after the break when Walcott raced clear, evaded the attentions of Chico Flores, and lifted the ball over the advancing Vorm only to see it roll inches past the far post.
Walcott complained to referee Mark Clattenburg that Flores had held him back, but knew that was a forlorn hope for a penalty.
The next time Walcott had a sight of goal, there was general disbelief that he didn’t score. Wilshere’s persistence saw him break clear in the box and fire straight at Vorm, but the ball looped up to Walcott, no more than six yards out, to surely put in the net.
However Danny Graham was back defending on the line and blocked heroically with what Clattenburg adjudged to be his chest rather than his arm. Walcott again furiously demanded a penalty, but the call looked a good one from the referee.
Arsenal were now dominant, despite Michael Laudrup making three changes in quick succession, including the introduction of Michu, who has scored three goals in his two games against the Gunners this season.
Walcott cut in from the flank and fizzed another effort wide, and then Wilshere forced another good save from the increasingly busy Vorm.
The missed chances were starting to stack up for the Gunners and there was always the feeling that Swansea might hit them with the sucker punch, which they almost did when substitute Ki Sung-Yeung’s effort required a low save from Wojciech Szczesny.
Giroud failed to connect properly with another presentable chance and then, with 10 minutes to go, Walcott thought he had finally scored with a glancing header from Bacary Sagna’s cross, only to see the ball rebound back from an upright and into the arms of Vorm.
Whem Giroud saw his shot blocked on the line by Dwight Tiendalli, there was desperation in the air, but with just four minutes to go salvation camein the form of Wilshere’s goal.
It was worth waiting for too, Cazorla’s measured pass finding Giroud, who flicked the ball into Wilshere’s path and the midfielder slammed a left-footed shot past Vorm from 20 yards.
Follow Paul Chronnell on Twitter @GazetteGooner
Swansea were broken, and there was no late leveller as there had been in the first game. Arsenal’s FA Cup dreams are still alive and they will head to Brighton to take on Gus Poyet’s Championship side on January 26 in the fourth round.
Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Gibbs, Diaby (Ramsey, 82), Coquelin, Walcott, Cazorla, Giroud.
Subs not used: Mannone, Jenkinson, Santos, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Podolski, Arshavin,
Swansea City: Vorm, Richards, Flores, Bartley, Tiendalli, Britton, Agustien (Hernandez, 60), De Guzman (Ki, 61), Routledge, Dyer, Graham (Michu, 71).
Subs not used: Tremmel, Monk, Shechter, Davies.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Attendance: 58, 359