Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal set up a mouthwatering FA Cup fourth-round tie against Manchester City by beating Oxford United 3-0.
The Premier League leaders failed to register a shot on target in the first half at the Kassam Stadium on Monday after Mikel Arteta made seven changes to his starting line-up.
They demonstrated their superior quality after the break, though, Mohamed Elneny opening the scoring before in-form Nketiah struck twice in the space of six minutes.
Fabio Vieira provided two assists in a ruthless second-half display from Arsenal, but an injury sustained by Bukayo Saka will be a concern for Arteta ahead of their North London derby against Tottenham on Sunday.
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 9, 2023
League One side Oxford had not allowed the Gunners to settle in a frantic first half that was devoid of quality.
Arsenal wanted a penalty when Albert Sambi Lokonga’s shot appeared to strike Elliott Moore’s arm, before Nketiah poked over the crossbar from close range.
Matt Turner came out to deny striker Matty Taylor early in the second half after the Oxford striker got in behind a static Gunners defence.
Lewis Bate then blocked Saka’s goal-bound strike after some neat footwork from the England winger in the penalty area as Arsenal showed more urgency.
Mikel Arteta introduced Granit Xhaka and Oleksandr Zinchenko just after the hour mark, and Elneny opened the scoring moments later, heading in Vieira’s whipped free-kick from six yards out.
What does it mean? Another Guardiola reunion for Arteta
There will be a battle of the top two in the Premier League to look forward to at the end of this month after the Gunners fired in the second half following a lacklustre opening 45 minutes.
While the title race is Arteta’s priority, a trip to face his former boss Pep Guardiola’s side will provide an opportunity to make a statement.
Winners of the FA Cup a record 14 times, the London club were knocked out at the third-round stage by Nottingham Forest last season but were a cut above Oxford following the interval.
Nketiah grasping his opportunity
There were concerns that an injury sustained by Gabriel Jesus during the World Cup would derail Arsenal, but Nketiah is proving a very able deputy.
He took his tally for the season to seven goals with two composed finishes and has found the back of the net four times in as many games since the World Cup.
Vieira the architect
It has been a frustrating start to life at Arsenal for Vieira following his big-money move from Porto last June, but he showed his quality after being given the chance to start.
With Martin Odegaard on the bench, it was Vieira’s wand of a left foot that set up two goals in a devastating second-half display.
Key Opta Facts
– Arsenal have progressed from their last 14 FA Cup ties against sides from the third tier or lower, winning the last seven such matches by an aggregate score of 24-0.
– Arsenal had just two shots in the first half, their lowest in the opening 45 minutes of any match in all competitions this season.
– Elneny’s six goals for Arsenal have come in four different competitions, with his header his first in the FA Cup (also Champions League, Europa League and Premier League).
– Vieira became the first Arsenal player to provide two assists in an FA Cup game since Alexis Sanchez against Southampton in January 2017.
– Nketiah has scored 17 goals in 24 starts for Arsenal in all competitions since the start of last season.
A huge clash at Spurs is the Gunners’ next assignment this weekend, a day after Oxford have travelled to Fleetwood Town.
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