Thursday, 17 January 2013

Super Jack fires us into round four as Wenger makes record bid

Morning Gooners.

That win really does make this week feel a lot better in my eyes. Our first victory of 2013 also coincided with the team's first clean sheet of the year. It also marked a victory without our most influential player of last season, Mikel Arteta.

It also means we're through to the fourth round of a competition we appear to be taking seriously. Saturday week 4,000 Gooners will be heading for the south coast for an away day at Brighton.

After the disappointment of the manner of our defeat to Manchester City, last night the team put in a performance which they can rightly feel proud of. The manager made three changes to the side which started Sunday's league game. The suspended Laurent Koscielny was replaced in defence by Per Mertesacker, Francis Coquelin and Olivier Giroud came in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lucas Podolski, with the manager switching around his front six players.

Jack Wilshere played in the free role behind Giroud, with Santi Cazorla on the left and Theo Walcott on the right offering the support. Coquelin and Abou Diaby (yes, starting his second day in three days) playing in the deep-lying midfield roles.

The first 45 minutes showed us that this team was going to graft for the victory tonight. The pressing game was out in force, although not to the same extent as it was during the second. We also got lucky when Kyle Bartley's header cannoned back off the bar, Swansea's only real chance of the match.

Giroud had a couple of efforts at goal, Walcott was hit and miss and Coquelin fired straight at the keeper. It appeared we were still finding our  feet in front of goal on what was an exceptionally cold night in north London.

Thomas Vermaelen made a couple of crucial interceptions to prevent the away side from scoring  And down the other end he had our best chance of the half when his shot was saved by Vorm. At half time there was deadlock.

We started the second half on the front foot, attacking the North Bank. Jack Wilshere was the driving force behind the team. He was every where. Walcott, Cazorla and Giroud all had chances within the opening quarter of the half, but it appeared we hadn't brought our shooting boots.

One thing which made the second half different from the first was our passing tempo. We seemed to be moving the ball around a lot quicker. And where as in the first half players were having four touches before passing it, during the second period the players were taking fewer touches.

The pressing game was more intense and was starting from the front. Jack Wilshere instigating it from his advance position and vocally urging his team mates to do the same. It worked. We won the ball back earlier had more of the possession.

You could have been lulled into thinking it was going to be one of those days when Coquelin's shot was chested of the line and then the resulting corner was also cleared from the same position. But the team didn't give up. Walcott, Sagna and Wilshere all had goal bound efforts saved by Vorm who was in fine form.

Swansea then made their third and final change bringing on Michu. You asked yourself how long it would be this time before the Spaniard scored. Thankfully, it wasn't going to be his night.

Into the final ten minutes we went and it was the post which kept Walcott's header out after a Sagna cross. And it  was then time to make our first change. Diaby being replaced by Aaron Ramsey.

Walcott has a shot saved, Giroud's effort is stopped on the line and then it came.

Super Jack Wilshere breaks the deadlock with a fantastic shot from the edge of the area after fantastic work from Cazorla and Giroud. The Spaniard fed Giroud who neatly turned the ball into the path of Wilshere who drove the ball home with his left foot from outside the area. 1-0 to the Arsenal.

There was to be no mistakes as we saw the game out to book our place in the fourth round and a trip to the seaside.

It was fitting that Dennis Bergkamp's Walking in a Bergkamp wonderland was re-worked for Jack last night. He had an amazing game, was everywhere and led this team to victory. His spirit and work rate was a joy to watch.

I thought the team had more balance last night than it did against Manchester City. With Giroud working hard from the centre forward role, Jack led by example from the free role behind him and then we had pace and guile on the wings in the form of Walcott and Cazorla.

Coquelin provided a decent shield for the defence and Diaby showed in bursts that he's still got an important role to play for us this season if he can stay off the treatment table.

The defence didn't have too much to do, but I do like the Mertesacker and Vermaelen partnership. I do think they complement one another. And Sagna and Gibbs were good in their roles outside them. Szczesny had little to do last night but what he did do,  he did well.

So Brighton is our next stop on this FA Cup tour. But before that we have important league games against Chelsea and West Ham.

And before the month is out we look set to tie Theo Walcott down to a new deal. I'm told his deal should be announced soon. AND on top of that we look set to break our club record fee to bring in another player. I don't want to name the player who we've made a bid for because the negotiations are at an early stage. But what I will say is,  I'd majority excited if the manager can pull this deal off.

Watch this space for more news as and when I get it.

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

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