Eddie Nketiah struck twice in the second half to help Arsenal to a comfortable 3-0 win at Oxford United and set up an enticing FA Cup fourth-round clash at Manchester City.
The Gunners will travel to the Etihad on the final weekend of January thanks to a vastly-improved performance during the second 45 minutes at the Kassam Stadium.
Nketiah then confirmed Arsenal’s progress into the fourth round as he continued his impressive form in front of goal with two composed finishes that ended Oxford’s stubborn resistance.
Arsenal went into their game against League One side Oxford having won 19 of their 24 matches this season and named a strong XI, despite making seven changes from the frustrating 0-0 home draw with Newcastle.
But the Gunners looked nothing like the swaggering side that have opened up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League, with Oxford – who are 14th in the third tier – holding them at bay with relative ease during the first half.
The only moment of danger came when Elliott Moore blocked Albert Sambi Lokonga’s shot with his arm in the area, but referee David Coote waved away Arsenal’s claims – and there was no VAR in operation to overturn his call.
Arteta was unlikely to have been pleased with what he saw from his side and was no doubt relieved to see them wake from their slumber after half-time, with Bukayo Saka seeing a shot cleared off the line by Lewis Bate.
Elneny’s header from Fabio Vieira’s inviting free-kick finally settled their nerves, and the Portuguese midfielder then claimed another assist when his sumptuous through ball set up Nketiah, who rounded goalkeeper Edward McGinty before sliding the ball home.
Nketiah then claimed his fifth goal in as many games – a huge bonus for Arsenal given Gabriel Jesus’ injury – with a delightful dinked finish to seal the victory.
Emile Smith Rowe provided Arteta with another reason to cheer by coming off the bench to make his first appearance since September following groin surgery, while the manager allayed fears over Saka’s fitness after the final whistle, despite the forward limping off ahead of the huge North London derby at Tottenham on Sunday,