Monday, 7 January 2013

Gibbs cracker should have won it -Villa to sign this week?

Morning Gooners.

A replay was the last thing we needed but because we couldn't hold on to a lead when we finally got in front, that's what we ended up with.

January would have been quite a hard month without the two extra fixtures we've had to now schedule - the rearranged Boxing Day game against West Ham on the 23rd and now a replay in the FA Cup third round against Swansea.

And if we beat the Welsh side, we'll have a game against Brighton to schedule in as well.

Yesterday the manager took the opportunity to rest Thomas Vermaelen, Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and bring into his side Per Mertesacker, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud for the trip to the Liberty Stadium.

It was a strong Arsenal side and one which created very few clear cut chances in the first half. We played some nice football, but the link up play in the final third wasn't there. Too often Mikel Arteta and Jack Wilshere would drop deep into our own half to take the ball off our central defenders to attempt to bring it forward.

I'd like to see Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny once in a while bring the ball into the opposition half to help create more space for the midfield. The Frenchman did it a couple of times in the second half and it caused problems for the home team because once he'd got past the forward who was marking him, no one closed him down or put pressure on the ball. It allowed us to take the ball from our half to their penalty area with little attempt to stop us.

It was telling in the first half how little Santi Cazorla was involved. He had a couple of shots but apart from that didn't seem to be having too much impact on the half. It seems the less the Spaniard is on the ball, the fewer chances we create. I wonder whether Tomas Rosicky will share these duties with Cazorla in the second half of the season because it's clear the ex-Malaga man needs some rest.

While Theo Walcott was doing his best to be involved more and more as the first half progressed - he moved into the second striker role, abandoning his station on the right - with little effect on the game.

Our defence wasn't troubled much either. But Wojeciech Szczesny was the busier of the two keepers, having to make a couple of decent saves to keep the Swans out.

The second half was completely different. We dominated the half from start to finish and should have won the game. It seemed like Arsene Wenger had sent his side out with the clear instruction to take the game to Swansea and win the tie in the 90 minutes.

Jack Wilshere was instrumental to our second half performance. It was Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Aaron Ramsey who stood out with their performance in the second period as Arsenal threw themselves forward.

We created a fair few chances but we couldn't put the ball in the back of the net. Then Swansea made a change, and it was Michu who broke through the middle of our defence to score his third goal of the season against us.

Despite going a goal down our heads didn't drop. We had a third of the game to get a goal or two and despite the home team's best efforts to hand us the ball at every opportunity, we weren't deadly enough in front of goal.

The goals finally came in the last ten minute minutes of the game. Lucas Podolski on for Ramsey fired home inside the penalty area after the home team couldn't clear our corner. Annd two minutes later Gibbs scored a cracking volley which should have won us the game.

Gibbs' strike was worthy of being the winning goal. But we couldn't see the game out. It was a corner which we couldn't clear our lines on which fell to Danny Graham with three minutes of the 90 remaining for him to bring the home team on level terms and earn them a replay.

Afterwards Arsene Wenger conceded another game in Janaury was the last thing the team needed. But he'd rather have it than be out of the FA Cup.

He said:

"I am frustrated because I wouldn’t want one (a replay), but if that’s the choice between going out or staying in the hat, I take the replay.  
"[We] play at the Emirates. They have many games as well. We have a [rearranged game] against West Ham on January 23."
The manager also bemoaned the fact we weren't awarded a penalty after he believed  Ramsey was clipped in the box. It appears the referee Howard Webb told the players he'd not awarded the spot kick because he believed the player had not meant to take down Ramsey.

Whether the clip was accidental or not, it should have been a penalty. But should we expect any the officials to get such a clear decision right? Not when it should go in our favour we shouldn't.

Wenger also stated that he believed his squad could cope with the fixture congestion in January. I hope that now he takes care of his transfer business sooner rather than later. When Giroud when down injured in the second half and you looked at our bench, you saw how vulnerable we are with the options we've got at centre forward.

With no midweek fixture, we've got time to get our business done. It seems the club are keen to move on Sebastien Squillaci and Andrey Arshavin before they bring new faces in, but it would be better to get our own deals done on bringing players in.

David Villa is the name on everyone's lips. If the manager is making a move for the Spain international, we should get the deal done before this weekend's game against Manchester City. The Daily Star link us with a move for England under-21 keeper Jack Butland but I'd be surprised we'd make a move for him when we have the highly rated Damian Martinez on our books.

That's it for today. Back with more tomorrow.

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