Wilshere breaks deadlock to send Gunners through
Arsenal 1 Swansea 0
FA Cup third round replay
Through the weeks of rehabilitation that turned into months last season, and the long lonely hours in the gym, Jack Wilshere will have clung to the hope that he would one day experience nights like this one again.
The 21-year-old scored the winning goal that put Arsenal into the fourth round of the FA Cup, but it was not just his brilliant volley for which this tie was memorable, it was also a performance from the England midfielder that drove his team on.
With extra-time and penalties looming, in the last competition which Arsenal have a realistic chance of winning this season, Wilshere proved the difference. It was always going to take something special to beat the inspired Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm and when Arsenal were in their most dire need, their young midfielder carried them over the line.
Wenger picked a side that did everything to suggest that he wanted to win this tie – arguably his strongest team from the players that he has available. On the other side, Michael Laudrup left Michu on the bench just as he did in the first tie in Swansea 10 days earlier.
Arsenal's problem was that before the break, they could not generate any tempo or pace.
Their best chance fell to Vermaelen in injury-time at the end of first half. Chico Flores' clearing header cannoned off Per Mertesacker and fell to the Arsenal captain, whose shot was well-saved by Vorm. Other than that, it could hardly be said that Wenger's players stretched Swansea.
The second half for Arsenal was a different story. They were attacking, assertive and they would have had the game wrapped up within 20 minutes of the re-start had they not been subject to the kind of grim determination in defence typical of cup ties.
With Wilshere running the game, it was often a case for Swansea of just getting bodies in the way.
The Swansea goalkeeper was on excellent form. He saved from Wilshere on 63 minutes when the midfielder neatly sidestepped Kyle Bartley in the box and managed to get his shot on target. From an Arsenal corner, Leon Britton cleared another header from Olivier Giroud off the line. Wilshere played in Walcott again and he struck the ball wide. Vorm saved a shot from Wilshere.
This was an Arsenal team at last playing like their season depended on this cup tie but they could not find the breakthrough.
Vorm made another fine save from Walcott on 84 minutes that suggested Arsenal may never break through. Left-back Dwight Tendialli cleared two more off the line.
Then came Wilshere's winner, teed up by a superb cushioned touch from Giroud who had been found by Cazorla. In the end it was no less than Arsenal deserved, and it fell to the best player on the pitch. (© Independent News Service)