Jack Wilshere ensured that Arsenal’s sustained second-half pressure finally reaped its rewards as his side narrowly defeated Swansea 1-0 to progress to the FA Cup fourth round in Wednesday’s clash in north London.
Michael Laudrup’s visitors were forced to withstand wave after wave of red and white attacks, especially throughout the second half, but managed to keep themselves level until the game's closing stages.
As the game kicked off, the current dissatisfaction amongst sections of the Arsenal support with their club’s current trajectory was reflected in the litterings of empty seats around the Emirates, though the home fans will have come away from Wednesday's fixture with their sense of frustration at least partly alleviated.
Wenger made a trio of changes to the side that lost to Manchester City last weekend, with Per Mertesacker coming in for the suspended Laurent Koscielny, while French pair Francois Coquelin and Olivier Giroud were also awarded starts.
Michael Laudrup, meanwhile, rotated his squad extensively, making six alterations to his last starting XI. Leon Britton and Danny Graham were among those introduced, and, as was the case for the initial tie, top-scorer Michu began proceedings on the bench.
The opening quarter of the game saw minimal openings for either side despite no shortage of attacking intent from both, with Giroud, Nathan Dyer and Abou Diaby all unable to find a killer pass when the situation demanded.
Eventually, it fell to the unlikely figure of Coquelin to inspire the game’s first meaningful attempt, seizing upon a half-cleared corner to sting the palms of Michel Vorm with a well struck left-footed drive.
Shortly afterwards, Arsenal old boy Kyle Bartley came within inches of putting the visitors ahead, nodding a teasing, inswinging cross from Wayne Routledge against the angle of post and bar.
As the half reached its latter stages, the hosts’ attack began to ease onto a common wavelength. A desperate, lunging block from Dwight Tiendalli averted Theo Walcott putting his side into the lead from close range, while Thomas Vermaelen’s snapshot was blocked by Vorm’s shins after a corner broke to the Belgian inside the six-yard box.
Halftime came and went, and having thus far engaged in much tidy build-up play but too little penetrative end product, the home side returned from the interval with its attacks taking a far more direct style. Almost immediately, Diaby played Walcott clean through and watched the forward hold off the advances of Chico Flores before clipping his effort past Vorm but also the far post.
By the hour mark, a pair of nerve-racking goal-line clearances from Danny Graham and Leon Britton, had prevented Arsenal from turning their seemingly irreversible momentum into a tangible lead, while Giroud and Santi Cazorla had flashed efforts wide and high respectively.
Despite the run of play, the introduction of Michu with 20 minutes remaining will surely have kindled visiting fans’ hopes of an implausible result, though yet more Arsenal pressure and a close-range Walcott header that rebounded off the very inside of Vorm’s post will have kept such thoughts to a minimum.
Chances continued to abound for the home side, though, and Swansea's fate was finally sealed five minutes from time, though, as the ever-probing Wilshere latched onto Giroud’s lay-off to drive home a low strike from the edge of the penalty box.
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