Arsenal played their FA Cup third round replay at home to Swansea last night. Since Arsene Wenger's first FA Cup campaign of1997 Arsenal had never been eliminated in the third round of the FA Cup. They had also gone 33 home games in the FA Cup since their last defeat.
The drawn game last week was a game Arsenal should really have won, but history was on their side for the home game. Swansea had come to Arsenal in the league in December and won though and that gave them some hope. They are not an easy team to beat and they certainly weren't going to make it easy for Arsenal.
The boss made a few changes from the team that lost 2-0 at home to City on Sunday. Per Mertesacker came in for the suspended Laurent Koscielny in defence with both Frances Coquelin and Olivier Giroud coming in too. The players to miss out were Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Chamberlain was more than a little unlucky to miss out as he had been the player sacrificed after Koscielny's red card on Sunday.
Arsenal started quite brightly, but their momentum faded after the first 10 or 15 minutes. The game settled into a pattern of Swansea possession with little end product and Arsenal running into blind alleys. Arsenal needed to find something and if it was going to come from anyone Jack Wilshere was the man to deliver it.
Arsenal found a little extra in the last 10 minutes of the first half and they had a couple of chances to take the lead. Theo Walcott had his effort from 15 yards saved after the ball fell to him on the area and Thomas Vermaelen missed a great chance with the last kick of the half. Swansea probably came closest to scoring when ex Arsenal player Kyle Bartley hit the bar with a header.
Arsenal came out after the break in much the same manner as they did in the drawn game. They upped their tempo and looked to put Swansea under pressure at every opportunity. It started paying dividends very quickly as they created plenty of good goalscoring chances.
As the half wore on a combination of poor finishing, goal line clearances and good goalkeeping from Michel Vorm kept the game scoreless. It looked set up for Swansea to snatch something on the break and when they brought Miguel Michu off the bench I feared the worst. He has had a great first season in English football and looks to have been the bargain capture if last summer.
Arsenal kept pressing forward though and Swansea were getting more and more desperate in their defending. When Theo Walcott hit the post with a header late on I thought extra time was a certainty. It was something Arsenal didn't need with a Premier League trip to Chelsea coming up on Sunday.
Wilshere had been pushed further forward in the second half and he gave Swansea some real problems. It was fitting that the goal which won the game came from him.
Arsenal broke up play in the Swansea half and a first time ball was played to Giroud who laid it off perfectly to set up Wilshere 20 yards out. His first time effort flew into the net past a helpless Vorm for the goal Arsenal needed. It was fully deserved and Wilshere was over the moon to score it.
With not much more than five minutes to go it was a question of whether Swansea could mount a comeback. They tried to push forward but their players looked tired as Arsenal coped easily with anything they had. They ran the clock down with some ease and saw out the three added minutes in the Swansea half in the main.
Wilshere received the man of the match award and there could have been no other candidate for it. He drove the team forward at every opportunity and he looks to be putting his 17 months of injury hell behind him. It's been about 20 months since he was last at his best for Arsenal but there can be no doubt that he is well in his way back there now.
The team he left was a very different one with two world class players in it. More performances like last night will suggest that he can be the world class player this team needs to rise it above mediocrity. Since his return he had been missing end product to his game but in a role further forward last night he showed he can score and create chances too.
I must also say that I was impressed with Coquelin last night. He doesn't get too many chances to play but he showed last night that he can be relied upon when he is called up. It adds to the options for the boss in midfield and that can't be a bad thing.
A tough trip to a good Brighton side awaits Arsenal in the next round in just over one week from now. It won't be easy for them with West Ham in the league a few days beforehand and Liverpool a few days afterwards. It's far better to be in the next round though and to have continued their excellent FA Cup third round record under the boss.
Next up is Chelsea on Sunday and it was great to see them drop more points again last night. They were 2-0 up at home to struggling Southampton but they ended up drawing 2-2. With the exception of the 8-0 win over Aston Villa they have not win in home game in about two months.
Hopefully Arsenal can prolong that record on Sunday and get their quest for a top four finish back on track. For now though they can bask in the glory of last night's win and the knowledge that the real Jack Wishere is back.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.