Swansea City 2 Arsenal 2: Swans get second shot at Gunners
SWANSEA City's recent record against Arsenal suggests they can go to the Emirates confident of reaching round four of the FA Cup.
Swansea, after all, have won two, drawn one and lost only one of their four meetings with the Gunners in the last two seasons.
That is quite some return against opponents who have been Champions League regulars for a decade and a half.
Swansea should travel to London with no fear for their third-round replay after yesterday's thrilling 2-2 draw at the Liberty Stadium.
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Michael Laudrup's concern will be that they will also head down the M4 with no energy.
"The last thing I would have wanted would have been to lose a game," the Swansea manager said.
"But just before that on the scale would have been having to go and play Arsenal in a replay.
"We already had a lot of games to play, and now we have another one on the table in January."
Frankly, Swansea could have done without having to do it all again against Arsenal during what was already a taxing spell of fixtures.
Laudrup's men emerged from the festive rush unscathed, taking a point off Manchester United and avoiding defeat in their three other Christmas games.
After the hectic holiday period, Swansea's players could have done with a holiday.
What they face instead is another frantic spell which will now be that little bit more demanding.
Swansea's January already featured league games against Aston Villa, Everton, Stoke City and Sunderland.
On top of that comes the two-legged Capital One Cup semi-final against Chelsea and now there will be a second FA Cup encounter with another of the country's heavyweight clubs.
The reward if Swansea can triumph at Arsenal, as they did at the start of December? A tricky trip to Championship side Brighton in the next round.
It is not exactly a glittering prize, yet there was never any question of laying down and allowing Arsenal to progress yesterday.
For a while Swansea looked like they might humble Arsene Wenger's men once again, after Michu arrived from the bench early in the second half and scored within 110 seconds of removing his tracksuit.
It was not to be. Arsenal deservedly levelled after bossing much of the second period, then took the lead just a couple of minutes later having piled pressure on Swansea's defence.
Yet Laudrup's team were not beaten, and Danny Graham's 87th-minute equaliser earned what the Dane felt was a deserved draw.
"To be honest, a replay is not exactly something I am looking forward to," Laudrup admitted.
"With Chelsea and all the league games, it is a very, very tight schedule.
"But when you have been in professional football at this level, when you are on the pitch or you are sitting on the bench, you always want to win.
"You never want to lose, and players like playing games. We have good memories of the Emirates, so let's see what happens there."
Arsenal will begin the replay as favourites, just as they were fancied to win in Wales this weekend.
But this Swansea side keep on progressing, they continue to chalk up results when they are not tipped for success.
It says something about the distance Swansea have travelled in recent years that Arsenal's visit did not attract a sell-out crowd yesterday.
It is also telling that come full time, the home contingent were frustrated not to have won rather than pleased to have avoided defeat.
Unless some Arab millions end up in Landore, Swansea are not and never will be on the same footing financially as the Premier League's top sides.
But they are now proving on a consistent basis that cash does not count for everything.
The gap in resources may be vast, but Swansea's method is allowing them to compete every time one of the giants crosses their path. And they did it here despite Laudrup making changes.
Ashley Williams, Swansea's most consistent defender, and regular right-back Angel Rangel were left out of the starting side.
So too were Michu, a top-flight sensation since his summer move from Spain, and Pablo Hernandez, the classy wideman who has offered so much during his maiden campaign on these shores.
"That shows how we are building this squad and this club," Laudrup pointed out.
"We play against Arsenal, and we can even allow ourselves to have one of the top scorers in the league on the bench, and still match one of the big teams 100 per cent.
"It's great to see that depth in our squad, because we are going to need it."
Michu was not totally fit having complained of a tight hamstring in training late last week, so he was kept in reserve until the 56th minute.
Even without him, Swansea had carved the better opportunities in a first half which was entertaining if not exactly brimming with goalmouth action.
Kyle Bartley, the Arsenal old boy who impressed against his old club in only his second Swansea appearance, was the unlikely provider of the hosts' first chance.
His long, measured ball picked out the rejuvenated Graham, who held off Per Mertesacker and unleashed a powerful 20-yard shot which Wojciech Szczesny beat to safety.
Bartley almost followed his possible assist with a goal of his own, the centre-back climbing above the 6ft 6in Mertesacker to head Jonathan de Guzman's free-kick on to the crossbar.
At the other end there was little to worry Michel Vorm before the break, Santi Cazorla firing one shot well over and rolling another into the goalkeeper's arms.
But Wenger's team moved through the gears after the restart, Olivier Giroud forcing two smart saves from Vorm either side of a big penalty appeal when Aaron Ramsey ran across Dwight Tiendalli and tumbled to the ground.
If there was any contact it was minimal, and it was also accidental — though that does not count for anything. Ramsey complained long and loud, but Howard Webb was unmoved.
Laudrup sent on a couple of high-class substitutes, and within a couple of minutes Swansea were ahead.
Unusually, the goal started from a Vorm clearance, which Nathan Dyer flicked on and Graham helped on.
Michu did the rest, hooking the ball over Mertesacker's head and then prodding it past Szczesny for the 15th goal of his extraordinary season.
Back came Arsenal, Giroud heading wide and Theo Walcott shooting across the face as Swansea became sloppy in possession.
The visitors' first goal arrived nine minutes from the end, Bacary Sagna heading Walcott's corner towards Laurent Koscielny on the edge of the box.
The Frenchman hooked the ball back into the danger area and Lukas Podolski punished Swansea, rattling a first-time shot low into the corner.
Arsenal were ahead in an instant, Kieran Gibbs exchanging passes with Giroud on the edge of the area before smashing a spectacular volley through Vorm and into the net.
Not for the first time this season, Swansea fought back when all seemed lost.
Szczesny saved from Ki Sung-Yueng after Kemy Agustien's free-kick reached him at the back post. But when Agustien's corner fell to the South Korean a minute later, he rolled a pass to Graham and the striker flashed home from a tight angle to salvage the draw.
Even then the drama was not over — Vorm saved brilliantly from Koscielny in the 90th minute, then Tiendalli's cross-shot flew into the side netting when a better ball would have meant a tap-in in stoppage time.
With that yet another pulsating Swansea game was all over.
The legs may be weary, but another encounter between these two should mean another treat for the fans.