Our interest in the FA Cup ended at the third round stage after a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal on Saturday evening.
Santi Cazorla’s first half strike was added to when Tomas Rosicky made the most of a defensive error – the Gunners putting their name into the hat for the fourth round draw as we struggled to create chances at the Emirates.
We started with just one change from the side that won at Manchester United on New Year’s Day, 19-year-old Nabil Bentaleb coming in for Etienne Capoue in the centre of midfield for his full debut after impressing upon his introduction from the bench in recent outings.
We got straight on the front foot, Kyle Walker speeding down the right and winning a corner from which Emmanuel Adebayor’s header and Mousa Dembele’s subsequent shot forced the Arsenal defence to close ranks.
At the other end, Serge Gnabry collected the rebound from Vlad Chiriches’ attempted clearance and wriggled his way into the area on the right, but Theo Walcott couldn’t convert his cut-back.
We went close in the ninth minute when Mousa Dembele’s through ball wasn’t properly intercepted and allowed Christian Eriksen to charge in behind the defence, the Danish international forcing a save from Gunners goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski at his near post.
Fabianski’s counterpart Hugo Lloris was forced to dive low to his right to see Theo Walcott’s 12th minute drive behind for a corner after a swift break by the home side, while Walcott again went close two minutes later as his curling effort was deflected just off target. Gnabry then fizzed a shot over following the subsequent corner.
Tomas Rosicky’s 20-yard free-kick was easily dealt with by our defence as the hosts sought to capitalise on a foul by Bentaleb, while Eriksen’s set piece from a similar position at the other end a few minutes later went over the top. Santi Cazorla then tried his luck from range, seeing his effort zip the wrong side of the woodwork.
Gnabry unlocked our defence in the 24th minute but, as the prowling Walcott sought to take advantage, his first touch took him wide and allowed Lloris the time to make himself big and make a vital block.
Arsenal found the breakthrough in the 31st minute as Gnabry seized possession and, with the supply line to Walcott seen earlier in the tie looking on the cards again, the German instead spotted Cazorla surging in from the left and side-footed into the path of the onrushing Spaniard to smash past Lloris.
Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker demonstrated their near-telepathic understanding of each other’s movement as we broke forward three minutes later, Lennon playing the ball sideways – almost behind him – into acres of space for Walker to dash into, but the Gunners’ defence dealt with our right-back’s eventual cross once he’d reached the byline.
Lloris caught Jack Wilshere’s hook in from the left as the Gunners sought to create an opening for a second goal, while Walcott volleyed over the top after Danny Rose’s clearance from Cazorla’s corner fell to the attacker.
Cazorla’s in-swinging free kick evaded everyone in the box while, as we tried to use our pace to find a leveller, Walker teed up Roberto Soldado to try a low drive which crept wide of the back post shortly before the break.
We started the second half with intent, Soldado volleying into the Spurs fans behind the goal from a second Eriksen corner in quick succession.
Eriksen was forced to concede a corner at the other end to deny Bacary Sagna, while Soldado dragged a shot off target for us as he tried to put the finishing touch on a counter-attack involving Eriksen and Lennon. Emmanuel Adebayor then fluffed his lines inside the Arsenal penalty area – he expertly controlled Lennon’s right wing cross but his attempted shot on the turn didn’t quite come off for him.
Gnabry fed another penetrating ball through our defence shortly before the hour mark, but Michael Dawson was there to cover, ensuring Walcott could only find the side netting as he was pushed wide.
A fatal mistake by Rose cost us a second goal in the 61st minute, Rosicky dispossessing the left-back – who was the last man – and galloping free towards goal before beating the helpless Lloris.
We nearly responded in the 69th minute as Mousa Dembele’s fierce left-footed drive from 20 yards out forced Fabianski into a low save. Walker’s burst forward a minute later resulted in him falling flat out on the deck under pressure from Nacho Monreal just inside the box, but his claims for a penalty were waved away by referee Mark Clattenburg.
Walcott flashed a shot just beyond the far post on 77 minutes, while Eriksen’s corner at the other end was glanced wide at the near post by Bentaleb.
The Gunners were forced to play the last eight minutes of the tie with 10 men after Theo Walcott was carried off, his side already having used their three allowed substitutes.
Lloris made a fine low save to keep out a fierce shot from substitute Mesut Ozil as the match entered stoppage time, with the Gunners seeing out time to progress into the next round.