Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta believes Eddie Nketiah is getting better and better after helping the Gunners set up an FA Cup fourth-round tie at Manchester City by beating Oxford United at Kassam Stadium.
Nketiah scored twice in six second-half minutes after Mohamed Elneny’s opener to secure the Gunners’ progression.
It is now five goals in his last six games for Nketiah, who has stepped up in the absence of injured striker Gabriel Jesus.
“He showed great composure,” said Arteta. “He’s a great finisher, with the timing of his runs as well.
“He showed his quality and his work-rate is getting better and better. I’m really happy with him.
“We have only one [striker] and to go many months before Gaby is back it’s not easy, but we have to get the most out of the players that we have at the moment.”
The Premier League leaders were frustrated in the first half by a well-organised and disciplined Oxford side before eventually overpowering their League One opponents.
Fabio Vieira was Arsenal’s creator-in-chief, sending in a perfect free-kick for Elneny to head past Oxford goalkeeper Eddie McGinty in the 63rd minute before playing a perfect pass for Nketiah to finish calmly finish seven minutes later.
Oxford, who had battled so hard, were now struggling to cope with Arsenal’s attacking threat and Nketiah was on the mark again after 76 minutes with a delicate chip over McGinty from Gabriel Martinelli’s pass to confirm that powerhouse meeting with City at Etihad Stadium.
There was concern for Arsenal before Sunday’s north London derby with Tottenham when Bukayo Saka went off with an injury, but Arteta played down the seriousness of it.
“He’s fine,” he told ITV Sport. “He’ll be OK.”
Arsenal get the job done
Arteta will have been disappointed by the Gunners’ sterile first-half performance but once they clicked into gear they inevitably had too much for Oxford.
Nketiah and Vieira were the two stars of the show, the latter coming through a struggle in the first half to show his quality in delivery and passing as the Premier League side finally exerted their authority.
Vieira’s free-kick was the perfect invite for Elneny to break the deadlock with a powerful close-range header and his pass for Nketiah to round McGinty was just as good.
Nketiah showed his class in front of goal with his third as he continued to deputise so well for the injured Jesus.
Arsenal were not exactly sparkling but that is not the priority in these games. It is getting into the next round and they achieved it with something to spare, Oxford not creating a serious moment of danger in the game.
The visitors increased the tempo and urgency after the break and once Elneny put them ahead there was never going to be a shock.
Oxford can take heart despite defeat
Oxford’s hopes of creating an FA Cup shock to stand alongside Stevenage’s win at Aston Villa on Sunday did not materialise but Karl Robinson’s side can take plenty away from this match despite defeat.
They were untroubled for the first half but the major problem for Oxford was they did not possess any threat of their own in the attacking areas and Arsenal goalkeeper Matthew Turner, in for the rested Aaron Ramsdale, had a very quiet night.
To Oxford’s credit, they tried to maintain their passing style and were well-drilled throughout the first half when Arsenal could not make any inroads.
It was also a night for Oxford’s fans to send a message off the pitch with a huge banner behind the goal reading “SOS Support Our Stadium. Secure Our Future. 24/01/23”.
This was a reference to plans to build a new stadium and move away from the Kassam, which will be discussed by Oxford council officials on 24 January and which the club regard as vital if they are to have a more prosperous future.
- 16BrownBooked at 59minsSubstituted forFlemingat 84′minutes
- 23MurphySubstituted forWildschutat 62′minutes
- 18McGuaneSubstituted forJohnsonat 84′minutes
- 7BodinSubstituted forGoodrhamat 77′minutes
- 9TaylorSubstituted forO’Donkorat 77′minutes
- 18TomiyasuSubstituted forWhiteat 81′minutes
- 3TierneySubstituted forZinchenkoat 61′minutes
- 21Fábio VieiraSubstituted forMarquinhosat 82′minutes
- 23Sambi LokongaSubstituted forXhakaat 62′minutes
- 7SakaSubstituted forSmith Roweat 75′minutes
- 10Smith Rowe
- David Coote
Match ends, Oxford United 0, Arsenal 3.
Second Half ends, Oxford United 0, Arsenal 3.
Hand ball by Marquinhos (Arsenal).
Attempt missed. Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Attempt blocked. Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Mohamed Elneny.
Attempt saved. Sam Long (Oxford United) header from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Tyler Goodrham with a cross.
Foul by Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal).
Gatlin O’Donkor (Oxford United) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Substitution, Oxford United. Brandon Fleming replaces Ciaron Brown.
Substitution, Oxford United. Joshua Johnson replaces Marcus McGuane.
Attempt missed. Cameron Brannagan (Oxford United) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right following a corner.
Corner, Oxford United. Conceded by Gabriel Magalhães.
Foul by Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal).
Gatlin O’Donkor (Oxford United) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Arsenal. Marquinhos replaces Fábio Vieira.
Substitution, Arsenal. Ben White replaces Takehiro Tomiyasu.
Corner, Arsenal. Conceded by Djavan Anderson.
Attempt blocked. Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal) left footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Gabriel Martinelli.
Substitution, Oxford United. Gatlin O’Donkor replaces Matty Taylor.
Substitution, Oxford United. Tyler Goodrham replaces Billy Bodin.