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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at the Kassam Stadium

It's job done for the Gunners as they pick up the pace to see off Oxford and book a trip to Man City

FA Cup Third Round

Oxford United (0) 0

Arsenal (0) 3 Elneny 63, Nketiah 70, 76

Arsenal laboured in open play for an hour but found a way to goal with a set piece to smooth their passage into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The Gunners had toiled unconvincingly for 60 minutes, but galvanised by the introduction of the combative Granit Xhaka, they immediately looked more purposeful and Mohamed Elneny nodded in a floated free-kick from the left by Fabio Vieira.

The tie unlocked, Arsenal finally found their composure and precision and Vieira’s defence-splitting pass proved perfect for the well-timed run of Eddie Nketiah and the striker tucked home after side-stepping the keeper Eddie McGinty.

It was no surprise when Nketiah made it three soon after. The striker was released by Gaby Martinelli and he was calmness personified as he clipped the ball home.

He looked offside but with no VAR in operation, he knew that the lack of a raised linesman's flag meant he could celebrate.

It had taken a while, but finally the sold-out Kassam Stadium’s boisterous home fans and their gutsy team were tamed.

Arsenal, donning a pure-white kit as a ‘no more red ‘ gesture against knife crime – so uniform that even the numbers on the back of their shirts were cream-coloured and unreadable – were a pale shadow of their usual selves before the interval.

Mikel Arteta, mindful of Sunday’s upcoming north London derby, gave plenty of fringe players an outing, while retaining the preferred front three, but the result was shambolic - the midfield barely functioning as a unit.

The Gunners were messy and it was all very scrappy. There was little cohesion or intensity and the passing was awry. They created little and Oxford grew in confidence as their seemingly greater appetite for the fray showed.

But that underdog enthusiasm was eventually undone.

This was the last of the weekend's 32 third round ties – and one which happened to offer up the dubious privilege for the winners of a trip to Man City in the fourth round.

Arsenal fans will assume their team can make a bigger fist of it than Chelsea did in yesterday’s 4-0 capitulation at the Etihad.

Karl Robinson’s League One side are below mid-table and were, on the face of it, not a great bet to pull off a major upset against the team which has won the competition more often than anyone else.

They only had one win in the last five going into the game against the Premier League leaders.

But to be fair to them, they gave it a decent go but ultimately did not have the necessary class in the final third.

U’s: (4-3-3) McGinty – Anderson, Moore, Long, Brown (Fleming 84) – Bate, McGuane (Johnson 84), Brannagan – Bodin (Goodrham 77), Taylor (O’Donkor 77), Murphy (Wildschut 62). Subs not used: Eastwood, Findlay, Negru, Sade

Gunners: (4-3-3) Turner – Tomiyasu (White 81), Holding, Gabriel, Tierney (Zinchenko 61) – Fabio Vieira (Marquinhos 81), Elneny, Sambi Lokonga (Xhaka 62)– Saka (Smith Rowe 75), Nketiah, Martinelli. Subs not used: Hein, Partey, Odegaard, Butler-Oyedeji

Attendance: 11,538


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