Arsenal left Wales a little dejected on Sunday Jan. 6 after being held to a 2-2 draw in their Third Round tie of the FA Cup by Swansea. The Gunners allowed a late goal by Danny Graham in the 87th minute to level the score at 2-2 after taking the lead themselves just four minutes earlier.
Based on the play, Arsenal should have held on for a deserved win, but their lack of quality defending hurt them again. They had plenty of possession in the first half, but didn’t really do anything with the ball even though they owned if for long periods of time. When the second half started the Gunners played with desperation and it suited them well.
However, they found themselves trailing 1-0 when Michu (who else) scored to put the home side in the lead in the 58th minute. He had just come onto the pitch two minutes earlier and it was his first touch of the ball as Swansea manager Michael Laudrup inexplicably left him out of the starting lineup. The goal was against the run of play as Arsenal were dominating from the start of the second half up until that point.
Laudrup appeared to be happy with trying to hang onto the lead though and it backfired on him as Swansea began to fall apart and played some atrocious football. Arsenal manager Aesene Wenger took Welsh international Aaron Ramsey off in the 72nd minute and replaced him with German international Lukas Podolski.
Just about every fan at Liberty Stadium and millions watching on TV knew what was coming next as Swansea were caving in to Arsenal’s pressure. Podolski made Wenger look like a genius when he leveled the score 1-1 in the 81st minute. Since the game was one-way traffic at this moment Arsenal did the right thing and went in for the kill and took the lead just two minutes later when Kieran Gibbs sent a volley into the roof of the net in the 83rd minute.
A defensive lapse saw Graham tie the game four minutes later though just after a corner kick and a replay will now be needed to settle their differences at Emirates Stadium on the weekend of Jan 26/27. Laurent Koscielny almost settled things right then and there with a stoppage-time header, but Swansea keeper Michel Vorm made a game-saving stop.
After the match, Wenger told the press, “Unfortunately I felt on the corner just before their goal, when we conceded it we lacked some calmness and focus. It is frustrating to concede a goal like this when we were first to the ball but didn’t clear it, but we showed heart and it is good to repeat that. I am frustrated as I did not want a replay, but if it is the choice between staying in or going out then I would rather take the replay at the Emirates, and they have a lot of games too.”
Overall, Arsenal built up a head of steam as the game went on and laid siege to the Swansea penalty area. Both keepers made a few fine saves and the second half was as entertaining as any this season. The game resembled a boxing match in some aspects as Arsenal landed more punches, and while Swansea didn’t land as many blows, they were more dangerous when they did.
Arsenal Player Ratings Jan. 6 vs Swansea
Wojciech Szczesny 7
A good game form the team’s number one keeper. Couldn’t be blamed for either goal and he pulled off a couple of fine saves.
Bacary Sagna 6
Sagna didn’t contribute much offensively, but did a decent job defending.
Per Mertesacker 5.5
Not one of the German international’s better games. Didn’t look too good on Michu’s goal and had some other rocky moments.
Laurent Koscielny 6
Didn’t fare too well on Michu’s goal either, but almost made up for it by scoring the potential winning goal late on, only to have his header saved.
Kieran Gibbs 7.5
A fine game by Gibbs down the left side of the pitch both defensively and offensively. Scored a fine goal on a left-footed volley that could have been the winner.
Mikel Arteta 6.5
Arteta didn’t have a dominant game, but wasn’t a weak link either.
Jack Wilshere 6
Wishere always give it a good effort, but he wasn’t rewarded with results for it today. Struggled a bit, but no major mistakes.
Santi Cazorla 6
Like Arteta, he didn’t really stamp his authority on the match, but wasn’t just a passenger either.
Aaron Ramsey 6.5
Ramsey played a pretty good game down the left side. Went down in the box in the second half and it was debatable if it was a penalty. Possibly clipped his own heel or a Swansea defender did accidentally. Was taken off in the 72nd minute.
Theo Walcott 6.5
Walcott had a decent game, but had a chance to score and shot wide. He’s always a threat with the ball due to his speed and skill.
Olivier Giroud 6.5
Giroud also gives an effort, but didn’t find himself with too many chances today. When de did get them, his shooting let him down.
Lukas Podolski 7
Came on for Ramsey in the 72nd minute. A lethal finisher who scored a nice goal to level the score at 1-1 and made an impact when coming on.