Arsenal

Arsenal's FA Cup Performance Provided Many Positives After 2-2 Draw

SWANSEA, WALES - JANUARY 06:  Mikel Arteta of Arsenal holds off Miguel Michu of Swansea City during the FA Cup with Budweiser Third Round match between Swansea City and Arsenal at Liberty Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Ben Hoskins/Getty Images)
Ben Hoskins/Getty Images
James DudkoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

Arsenal have started 2013 with two draws; however, they have each revealed different things about this Gunners squad.

While Arsenal were lamentable during their 1-1 stalemate at Southampton last week, Arsene Wenger's side were brave and dynamic during a 2-2 draw at Swansea on Saturday.

That result means Arsenal will replay their FA Cup third-round tie before hopefully progressing to take on Brighton & Hove Albion in the fourth round (via SkySports.com). While failing to beat Swansea is disappointing, Arsenal should feel little shame after outplaying Michael Laudrup's team for large portions of the game.

Indeed, if Arsenal possessed some calmness and more quality in attack, they would have triumphed. Such was the level of their dominance, particularly in the second half.

Arsenal played the kind of bold, creative football they have displayed only sparingly this season. They passed the ball quickly, and the movement around those passes was constant and intelligent.

That vital combination led to many promising chances. Only some hesitancy along the forward line prevented Arsenal from building a commanding lead.

However, the play from the midfield and supporting players like left-back Kieran Gibbs was outstanding. The young England international was a superb attacking outlet and capped his performance with a magnificent goal.

Gael Clichy, take note: This is how an attacking full-back is supposed to play for Arsenal. Gibbs' efforts were ably supported by the stylish Spanish duo of Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla.

The pair gave Arsenal the initiative in the second half after Swansea's classy forward Michu had opened the scoring. Arteta was smart and composed on the ball and, unlike against Southampton, imposed himself on the play.

The veteran schemer demanded the ball and kept the flow of Arsenal's passing moving forward. Cazorla was only let down by his finishing after exerting a key influence in a variety of forward areas.

The only midfielder who struggled was Jack Wilshere. The application was there, but Wilshere's contributions in advanced positions lacked technical quality. He overhit too many through passes.

If Wilshere is going to continue playing further forward—and he should—then he must produce more consistent creativity.

Of course, Arsenal's midfield wasn't always helped by a forward line that continues to stutter.

Olivier Giroud remains an enigma. The powerful target man is intelligent with his linkup play but seems to descend into hysterics when presented with a scoring opportunity of his own.

In these instances, the ex-Montpellier star never does everything right. He'll often make a smart run yet undermines that crafty movement with poor control. If his run and touch are right, Giroud usually botches the finish.

His struggles were a shame because Theo Walcott provided decent support from the right. Despite wasting a great chance in the second half, Walcott's general movement from the right was excellent.

Wenger still seems uncertain of how best to deploy his attackers. His decision won't have been made easier by Lukas Podolski's superb cameo.

The German striker entered the fray as a substitute with Arsenal needing some inspiration. Podolski promptly provided it with some excellent distribution and decisive movement in the box.

He thundered home Arsenal's equaliser via a powerful shot on the turn. The key to his performance was that Podolski spent most of his time attacking central areas.

As possibly the Gunners' most composed finisher, Podolski offered strong evidence that he should be given more time in the middle.

Another draw is disappointing, but this stalemate offered positives instead of ammunition for further recriminations. Rediscovering their style should remain Arsenal's top priority.

Unlike the clueless, stale showing against Southampton, Arsenal's bright performance against Swansea offers real hope they can still find that style this season.

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