Arsenal 1-0 Swansea: Late Wilshere winner sends Gunners through
London: Jack Wilshere ensured Arsenal’s sustained second-half pressure finally reaped rewards as his late strike saw off Swansea and sent the Gunners into the FA Cup fourth round.
The London side, despite much profligacy in front of goal, were well worth the win as the Swans fell to their first defeat in eight matches.
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 as Leon Britton and Danny Graham were introduced, with top goalscorer Michu on the bench.
The opening quarter of the game saw minimal openings for either side despite no shortage of attacking intent, 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 after nodding a teasing cross from Wayne Routledge against the angle of post and bar.
As the first half drew to a close, 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.
Having engaged in much tidy build-up play but with ittle penetrative end product, the home side emerged after the interview with improved intent. 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 narrowly wide.
By the hour mark, a pair of nerve-racking goal-line clearances from Danny Graham and Leon Britton had prevented Arsenal from turning their 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 a possible progression, though yet more Arsenal pressure and a close-range Walcott header off the inside of Vorm’s post will have kept such thoughts to a minimum.
Chances continued to fall for the home side 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.
Arsenal march into the fourth round and a trip to Championship side Brighton, while Swansea still have a two-goal advantage over Chelsea for their Captial One Cup semi-final second leg on January 23.