Swansea City 2 Arsenal 2

Arsenal came from a goal behind to grab a 2-1 lead with seven minutes to go in this FA Cup 3rd round tie at the Liberty stadium. But there was to be drama when Danny Graham levelled after 87 minutes to force a replay at the Emirates. The Gunners had fallen behind to Miguel Michu who broke the deadlock seconds after coming off the substitutes’ bench. Gunners’ substitute Lukas Podolski then levelled after 81 minutes, and with Arsenal in the ascendancy at that stage, Kieran Gibbs looked to have won it for the Gunners with a fierce angled drive past Michel Vorm. However, Graham levelled late on for the Swans to make it 2-2, a scoreline that was probably a fair reflection on the tie. Should they prevail in their replay against Swansea on Wednesday January 16th, Arsenal will face a trip to Brighton in the fourth round over the week-end of January 26th / 27th

This was perhaps the proverbial game of two halves. The opening 45 minutes assumed a lacklustre affair, with the tempo not suited to the Arsenal game. The Gunners started with a Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertersacker central defensive pairing, while Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud also started. Swansea enjoyed the better of the earlier chances, with Wojciech Szczesny denying Graham after 13 minutes. Arsenal had Jack Wilshere passing and moving at will, but without any penetration as Theo Walcott and Giroud waited for a supply line that was being stifled. Ramsey worked a good opening, but the former Wales captain could not apply any finish when facing Vorm on 29 minutes

Kyle Bartley was deemed surplus to requirements by Arsene Wenger, and how he almost grabbed the opener, rising to hit the bar with a header from Jonathan de Guzman’s free-kick. Three minutes before the break, Cazorla’s sharp turn and shot was on target, but lacked any power as Vorm collected comfortably.

Arsenal emerged for the second half with more zip and purpose about their football. After 51 minutes, a fast break saw Walcott race away and feed Giroud. The France striker caught the ball well, but Vorm produced the save. Ramsey felt he should have been awarded a penalty when Tiendalli caught his heels, but Howard Webb remained unconvinced of there being any contact. It was all Arsenal, and their brighter football should have been rewarded, but Giroud could not find a way past Vorm from Gibbs’ cross.

The Gunners’ left back was having a rewarding afternoon going forwards, and would feature heavily from the left. Just shy of the hour mark however it was, Swansea who took the lead. Mikel Arteta was robbed of possession, and with Mertersacker and Koscileny floundering Michu applied his killer left footed shot past Szczesny, after a mere 1 minute and 30 seconds of his introduction. No panic from the Gunners however, and they really should have levelled after 65 minutes. Ramsey’s cross from the left was perfect for Giroud, but his poor header when clear of the Swans’ defence failed to trouble Vorm.

The Holland ‘keeper was finally beaten with nine minutes still remaining. Walcott’s corner was not given up on by Sagna, who headed the ball into the path of the advanced Koscielny. He found Podolski, and the German showed all the instincts of a striker when turning and firing in a left footed shot past the stranded Vorm after 81 minutes. Two minutes later and Arsenal had what should’ve been the winner. Gibbs played a neat one-two with Giroud, then fired high past Vorm with a stunner of a strike that no Swansea player was expecting for a 2-1 to the Arsenal scoreline.

That Gunners preference for zonal marking remains a work in progress, and after Swansea’s leveller, should now be consigned to the bin by Wenger. Podolski inadvertently flicked on a corner that fell for Ki. With now Arsenal defender close, he fed Graham for a strike that sailed past Szczesny.

As both sides set about getting the winner, Koscielny could have won it for the Gunners, but his header and follow up shot from Walcott’s corner did not find the target. Wenger and Michael Laudrup would have preferred not to have a replay, but that is exactly what we have. Arsenal will want to finish the job at the Emirates in ten days time.