Football: Arsene Wenger hailed Jack Wilshere after the midfielder capped an excellent display by scoring a late winner against Swansea to book his side's place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
The Gunners spurned a hatful of chances on a bitterly cold evening in north London before Wilshere, who was by some distance the game's top performer, drove an effort in from the edge of the area with just four minutes of normal time remaining.
Extra time had seemed a distinct possibility until that point, but it was entirely fitting that the breakthrough came from Wilshere, who now seems back to his best following the lengthy injury layoff that saw him miss all of last season.
"First of all I have no (previous) experience of a player being out for 17 months in my whole career," said Wenger, whose side travel to Brighton in the next round. "I always said that if we got Jack on January 1, we have done well. But he's ahead of what I could have imagined."
He added: "I think he's a complete midfielder. He can defend and attack, but he's a guy who can dribble and give a final ball."
Pedantic observers would argue that it was that latter aspect of Wilshere's play that could have perhaps been a little better. On more than one occasion he overhit a through ball for Theo Walcott, but overall his performance was one of poise, strength and skill.
What was lacking from Arsenal's overall game was ruthless finishing. Both sides had chances in the first half, with Swansea going the closest when former Gunner Kyle Bartley headed against the bar, but the hosts completely dominated after the interval.
Walcott, in particular, was guilty of gross profligacy, though it should be noted that Swansea keeper Michel Vorm had an excellent match, making decisive saves from Walcott on more than one occasion, as well as from Wilshere, Olivier Giroud and Thomas Vermaelen.
Such wastefulness should worry Wenger, but the Frenchman insisted his priority this month was to tie Walcott to a new contract. Only then, he said, would he go in search of new players.
"Well, I believe in Giroud. He's a threat and creates chances," said Wenger when asked of his priorities in this transfer window. "Let's first try to finish the deal with Walcott and then we'll see what we can do from there."
Swans manager Michael Laudrup was gracious in defeat, but he warned against putting too much pressure on Wilshere. "He has a lot of potential, but people can be too quick with the big words — to be world-class you need a few seasons at top," said the Dane, whose side tired in the second half, almost certainly the result of having played three tough away matches in a week.
Aside from a long range strike from substitute Sung Yueng Ki, Swansea rarely threatened as the game headed towards an additional 30 minutes. The visiting goal led an increasingly charmed life, with Danny Graham performing a brilliant goal-line clearance from Walcott, while Bacary Sagna struck a post with a cross that had been destined for Walcott but evaded everyone before cannoning back into the hands of Vorm.
Laudrup flung on Michu, Arsenal's chief tormentor this season in the sides' previous two encounters, but the visitors had run out of energy.
Wilshere certainly hadn't and there was relief all around Ashburton Grove when Giroud flicked the ball into the path of the youngster who smashed his effort beyond Vorm.
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