Arsenal made the trip to Wales yesterday to play Swansea in the third round of the FA Cup. With the Premier League title beyond them and the Champions League a pipe dream it was surely their last chance of a trophy this season.
Arsene Wenger made three changes from the side which was so ineffectual against Southampton in the 1-1 draw last Tuesday. Per Mertesacker returned in the centre of defence with Thomas Vermaelen missing out and Oliver Giroud played at centre forward with Theo Walcott pushing wide and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain missing out.
The last change was the most curious of the three with Aaron Ramsey coming in on the left of the attacking trio in place of Lukas Podolski. I have no doubt that Ramsey was due a game but it is folly to play him in that position. He is a central player and no more and he should be played there or not at all.
Surely Santi Cazorla would have fitted in better on the left, but I doubt if the boss wanted to break up his central threesome. They didn't play too well against Southampton and maybe one of them could have done with a rest with some very tough games ahead this month. He was very limited with his options though as the lack of strength in depth of the squad was there for all to see.
The first half was a very quiet affair with chances few and far between. Arsenal played some good possession football without ever looking really dangerous and Swansea threatened on the break a couple of times. Arsenal almost made the perfect scoring chance on a couple of occasions, but their tendency to overplay the ball was infuriating at times.
They started much brighter in the second half and made some very good chances. A combination of good goalkeeping from Michel Vorm and poor finishing from Arsenal kept the game scoreless as the hour mark approached. At that point Swansea played what they hoped would be their trump card with the introduction of Muguel Michu whose back injury had kept him out of the starting team.
It didn't take long for Michu to make his mark as the man who scored both goals in Swansea's 2-0 win at Arsenal last month put them ahead. He took advantage of confusion in the centre of the pitch to put the ball over the top of Mertesacker and race through on goal from just inside the Arsenal half. Laurent Koscielny tried to chase back but couldn't make a tackle in time and Wojciech Szczesny chose to stay very close to his goal.
It meant Michu was able to sidefoot home from just inside the Arsenal box and give Swansea the advantage they craved. Neither Mertesacker or Szczesny covered themselves in glory in my opinion and Mikael Arteta was found wanting in his duties too. The game was set for Arsenal to push forward even more and Swansea to try to finish it on the break.
In the next 20 minutes chances came and went for Arsenal and Swansea rode their luck at times. At least Arsenal were making those chances though and there was hope they would take at least one before the final whistle. Podolski came on for Ramsey with ? minutes left and he proved to be just what they needed.
Arsenal won a corner on their left after some desperate defending had denied them yet again. Walcott hit it too far but Bacary Sagna managed to head the ball back into the box. It dropped to Koscielny who stopped and turned before trying a shot from just inside the box.
His shot fell to Podolski who struck it into the corner on the turn to tie the game up. Arsenal immediately went looking for another goal and it wasn't long in coming.
Kieran Gibbs played a one-two with Giroud and followed the return ball into the box. Giroud had spun his pass over the defence for Gibbs to run on to and he crashed home a left foot volley past the helpless Vorm. I thought Gibbs was going to pass the ball across the goalmouth but he finished expertly instead.
The Arsenal players celebrated what looked like a winning goal and I thought they deserved it too. Unfortunately they couldn't hold on to their lead and Swansea were level again within four minutes. The goal came from a corner and some very bad Arsenal defending.
As soon as Swansea attacked it was almost inevitable that they would equalise. Arsenal had controlled the whole of the second half with the exception of the first Swansea goal, but they looked very vulnerable once they went ahead. Panic set in almost immediately and there seemed to be no leadership on the pitch.
Swansea even had a chance to go on and win the game before the five added minutes were over. Arsenal had a very good chance too but they were denied by Vorm yet again. A draw was a satisfactory result but it was a draw snatched from the jaws of victory.
It was so like Arsenal to do all the hard work of getting back into the game and going ahead before bring unable to see the game out. At least they played well in attack in the second half and created a string of chances which they managed to take two of. They are still in the FA Cup for this season and there is still the possibility of some silverware to fill a cabinet that has been all too bare in recent years.
The replay will be fitted in between league games at home to City and away to Chelsea. It should be a very interesting and tough week for the team and they need some reinforcements before then. The transfer window may stretch all the way to the end of January, but Arsenal's need is urgent and needs to be filled well before then.
Besides City and Chelsea on the league there is also a trip to Liverpool to contend with and the postponed game against West Ham to be played too. There's the replay with Swansea and a possible fourth round trip to a good Brighton side. The squad needs additions if the team are to come through still challenging for a top four place and still in the FA Cup too.
I can only hope the boss understands the urgency and spends some of what he has available to him on players who can step straight into the team.
That's it for today.
See you tomorrow.