Match Report: Danny Graham rescues Swansea City after Arsenal's late show

Swansea City 2 Arsenal 2: Striker earns replay as Wenger maintains record of never losing a third-round tie

The Liberty Stadium

It is seven years, seven months and 17 days since Arsenal won their last trophy and, at times yesterday, it felt like the ticking of that proverbial clock was the force that drove Arsène Wenger's team on and, ultimately, back into the tie.

With nine minutes left they were on their way out of the FA Cup, the last competition which they have a realistic chance of winning and the players will have known what was coming. Eight years. The prospect of eight years without a trophy. It may still come to pass but at least they will not have fallen at the very first hurdle.

In fact, it took no small measure of character from Wenger's side to drag themselves back into the match with Lukas Podolski's equaliser and then Kieran Gibbs' brilliantly taken second which seemed to have the game won.

Then in the last few minutes they threw it away all over again when Danny Graham scored the equaliser that means these two sides will meet at the Emirates a week on Wednesday for a fixture in the fourth round away to Brighton.

That was the best and the worst of the current Arsenal side, a team that can occasionally dazzle in attack but are all too brittle in defence. They had been badly embarrassed by Michu's goal on 58 minutes, a mere 73 seconds after his arrival as a substitute yet they dominated possession for long periods of the game. They were flat-footed for Graham's goal having previously sliced through Swansea at the other end.

It was a Swansea team missing Michu and Ashley Williams from the first XI and the home team's back four was marshalled by Kyle Bartley, the former Arsenal academy kid who had a fine game in just his second outing of the season.

In many respects, Swansea, with their League Cup semi-final first leg against Chelsea looming on Wednesday, made more concessions to their packed fixture schedule than their illustrious opposition.

The problem for Arsenal is that they can no longer simply roll into town and expect to beat the smaller clubs of the Premier League at a canter. In fact, given their experience at Bradford City in the League Cup this season, there are no guarantees even against opposition of a much lower level.

This is a Swansea side that won at Arsenal in the league this season, and Wenger's robust team selection clearly had that in mind.

He picked a team to win the game and now that the postponed Boxing Day league game against West Ham is rescheduled for 23 January his team could play five matches in 13 days in the second half of the month, providing they make the fourth round.

Olivier Giroud embodied much of the frustration about this Arsenal performance. On two occasions his touch in the box was immaculate, once on 50 minutes when he killed the ball stone dead and teed up Aaron Ramsey. Then again with seven minutes left, when he lofted a chip perfectly into Gibbs' path for the second goal. At other times, he could be infuriating. There was a shot that was shanked embarrassingly wide soon after half-time and a header that failed to hit the target on 65 minutes.

When Michu came on, £9million cheaper and seven league goals better off, it took him no time to give Giroud a lesson in finishing. Gibbs had been too weak with the lively Nathan Dyer and, when the ball broke off Laurent Koscielny to Michu, the Spanish striker lofted it over Per Mertesacker.

It will have been painful for the Arsenal bench to watch their German defender so comprehensively beaten for pace and technique and left behind like the proverbial statue of Liberty Stadium. Having pulled away, Michu finished with confidence.

He did not start the game, Michael Laudrup said, because the forward was not completely fit. In his absence, Graham was an effective threat even if he does not possess the silkiness of his team-mate. In fairness, few do.

Before then, Arsenal had been denied a penalty by Howard Webb when Ramsey was clipped by Dwight Tiendalli in the box on 52 minutes. There was the faintest of contact and Wenger, naturally, believed that it should have been a penalty but it required more than one slow-motion replay to ascertain that fact.

There were some fine performances in the Swansea side, from the likes of Leon Britton, Jonathan de Guzman and the 19-year-old Welsh left-back Ben Davies. His one mistake of the game on 75 minutes let Theo Walcott in on goal but the Arsenal forward's first touch was off and he ended up dragging his shot across goal.

With nine minutes left, Podolski came up with the equaliser having earlier been responsible for an atrocious miss – although his embarrassment was spared by the flag for offside.

For the goal, Bacary Sagna headed back Walcott's deep corner, Mikel Arteta retrieved the ball and Podolski hit a crisp right-foot shot from close range. Within two minutes Arsenal were in the lead when Gibbs and Giroud exchanged passes and the full-back scored with a volley.

From there the tie should have been sealed off by Arsenal. Wenger said that he had sensed problems defending set-pieces and he was proved right.

The substitute Kemy Agustien struck a corner that skimmed off the head of Podolski and fell at the feet of Ki Sung-yeung, unmarked. He poked the ball on to Graham, similarly unattended, who did the rest for Swansea from close range.

Afterwards, Laudrup conceded that although he had no desire to lose the game, the replay does not make life any easier for him. From Wednesday, his team will face six games in 20 days, including the two legs against Chelsea.

Wenger has never lost before in the FA Cup third round and this season, of all seasons, would have been a very bad time to break that habit. English football has changed since he arrived in 1996 and sides like Swansea with their fashionable young foreign manager and astute foreign signings can more than compete. As for the FA Cup, that remains Arsenal's best chance of a trophy and as such demands to be taken seriously.

Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own