Trudging home from the Emirates last night was not the depressing experience I’d built it up to be. Yes my hands were numb, everybody was tired and my throat was hoarse but we were coming out of what had been an electrifying second half to a match that many Gunners had been dreading. Arsenal fans are no strangers to criticising players (I direct you now to the legendary YouTube video ‘discarding van Persie’ which has a wonderful description of Bentner too) and after the dire display on Sunday they’d be right to. There were moments in Sunday’s game when the players seemed indifferent making no real effort to get the ball let alone keep it; it was one of the rare occasions I’ve left the Emirates feeling angry. So it was no surprise that the mood in the North Bank was less than optimistic throughout the relatively dull first half, the fan beside me muttering “this has got extra time written all over it” as the half time whistle blew.
So far the game resembled the first FA Cup draw at Swansea City, a dull first half which would hopefully lead to a more productive second half. While a goal heavy second half is desirable purely for entertainment reasons-nobody wants a dull match on a freezing night-Arsenal had had a lead in the second half of the first leg and had thrown it away, last minute, in true Arsenal style. While it’s slightly embarrassing that there was so little faith in the Gunners from their own fans (I include myself) after a quiet January transfer wise and a run of bad results it would be hard for any Gunner to be positive. As it ended all square at half time some fans were relieved, Arsenal’s track record against in form Swansea was not good and after a 2-0 loss at the Emirates in the league, even a home fixture was a worry. The team on Sunday had been described as ‘demoralised’ and more harshly, ‘not bothered about the game’ were a team who could quite easily take a game to penalties, thankfully that team didn’t show up.
The second half bought a renewed enthusiasm to the Arsenal players they were inventive in the box having shot after shot on goal. The attacking flair that had been lacking in recent times had returned and the fans were up in arms, despite this the score line still remained a frustrating, 0-0. However towards the end of the match after countless saves by a heroic Vorm that second of magic needed to produce a goal finally happened. Jack Wilshere, who had played magnificently all night finally beat the keeper to the delight of the crowd and his team mates. Wilshere’s performance all night was stellar, not to sound too clichéd he put in 110% to everything he did, if there was any night for Wilshere to show the fans what they’d been missing of late. Wilshere’s performance, his work ethic and his loyalty are the reasons many people are calling him ‘the new Mr Arsenal’. Overall it was an enjoyable second half both teams were playing to score, Swansea as expected, were no pushovers and that moment of dread when the number of goal scoring ‘Michu’ appeared on the substitute board was collectively felt by Arsenal fans. Despite the tenacity of their opponents Arsenal outshone Swansea and it’s only due to Vorm that the score line is so low. As the final whistle blew and ‘Super Jack’ rang out from the stands it was hard to think that maybe, just maybe Arsenal will be okay.