Arsenal have secured their passage to the FA Cup fourth round after comfortably seeing off Oxford United 3-0 at the Kassam Stadium.
Eddie Nketiah has continued his fine form for Mikel Arteta’s side after being parachuted into the first-team following Gabriel Jesus’ injury at the World Cup. The No. 14 nabbed a brace in Oxfordshire after Mohamed Elneny bagged a collector’s item finish to break the deadlock.
It was a hard-fought contest for the Gunners, with the scoreline perhaps not doing justice to Oxford’s resolve throughout the match. Karl Robinson’s U’s huffed and puffed, and kept the travelling Londoners at bay in the first half, but their resilience eventually waned against the Premier League leaders.
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Following Elneny’s header on the hour mark, the floodgates opened, and it ultimately proved a routine win for an Arsenal side who refuse to yield under Arteta. Their reward for coming through a stern test from Oxford is a trip to Man City in the next round. With the form they’re in, though, you certainly wouldn’t rule out further progression.
The headlines will naturally be dominated by Nketiah who, since returning from the winter pause as an enforced starter, has scored five goals in five games, mitigating the absence of Jesus. In fact, the academy graduate has now scored in every possible competition for Arsenal this season.
However, there was another who produced an impressive display to just give his manager food for thought going forward. Fabio Vieira helped himself to an assist double against Oxford, with two sumptuous deliveries. His first was a pinpoint cross to tee up Elneny, and his second was a timely through ball to Nketiah.
The Portuguese playmaker has struggled for considerable game time this campaign, starting just one Premier League match. But his showing in The City of Dreaming Spires will have done his prospects of eventually nudging his way into the first-team reckoning no harm.
In all competitions, Vieira now has more assists than Phil Foden and Jack Grealish (three each) this season, and sits level with Bruno Fernandes (four). An ethereal and delicate operator, Vieira boasts a harmony of balance and intellect, evidenced by the accuracy and timing of his deliveries tonight.
It will be hard for the 22-year-old to break into a side firing on all cylinders, particularly with the recent return of Emile Smith Rowe, but when called upon, he has delivered. And it’s certainly not a bad thing having such a creative weapon as an insurance policy on the bench for Arteta.
While Vieira has proven a worthy understudy for Martin Odegaard, Albert Sambi Lokonga’s quality remains in question. With Smith Rowe returning from injury, it’s now or never for the Belgian to stake his claim as Arteta’s go-to Granit Xhaka replacement. Or they might even look to the transfer market.
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