By Randy Osae
Van Persie’s fruitful brace as today’s captain helped Arsenal prevail over a stern Plymouth, as the formality of securing a place in the FA Cup’s fourth round was job done.
2009 has began with some leeway, and hopes are it is more habitual.
Arsene Wenger’s side contained three changes. ‘Cup keeper’ Lukasz Fabianski was in action, while bench warmers against Portsmouth Aaron Ramsey and Robin van Persie were handed starts. That meant the demotion of Almunia, Denilson and Adebayor.
From a Plymouth perspective, this was a glamorous cup tie to enjoy, so only the Gunners had something to lose.
The visitors did not conceal their respect for Wenger’s men in the openings stages, but they were not intimidated either. Constant Arsenal possession and pressure met a with-standing attitude from Plymouth. Arsenal outplayed Paul Sturrock’s men by miles but courtesy of numerous heroics by stopper Larrieu, they remained unscathed.
There were not too many defensive duties to strain Mikael Silvestre, but the French veteran limped off on the half-hour mark to be replaced by Kierran Gibbs. At half-time, the Gunners had been frustrated, and the negativities of their current patch could foresee a wicked sucker punch coming from the Pilgrims, if there was to be any story of an upset.
But seconds into the second half, stand-in skipper Robin van Persie managed a rare header home from Nasri’s corner and fused some warmth among the shivering Emirates Stadium crowd.
Relief would turn into comfort, as it was 2-0 shortly.
Van Persie turned provider this time, skillfully making light of his marker on the right of the penalty box and sent in a tricky low drive across the face of goal which was unwittingly turned into the net by David Gray with Bendter on charge to tap in.
On evidence of this campaign, Arsenal never switch from under-pressure to cruising in such quick succession do they?
And they were pegged back just three minutes after.
A Plymouth free kick was unconvincingly cleared, and Gray who had been blamable for the game being seemingly put to death, whipped the ball back across a cramped six-yard box where Duguid poked home past Fabianski.
It was back to tension around the Emirates, and Arsenal, given their shakiness knew it would take a single moment for the Championship side to snap a priceless comeback.
The spell that followed though was familiar. Arsenal kept their dominance and surged to retain their two-goal cushion.
Emmanuel Eboue was then replaced by Carlos Vela and again, the Mexican youngster showed sharpness – aiding an outstanding Samir Nasri while Kierran Gibbs was also on hand for some menace with a long range effort which missed goal by millimeters.
Arsenal were always destined for the killer third and Van Persie was available to provide it six minutes from time. The Dutchman rebounded his saved effort by smashing the ball home.
With curtains now closed, Jack Wilshere came on for Bendtner to see out a handful of minutes, two days after his 17th birthday. Arsenal’s final show of edge was Samir Nasri’s shot which was parried onto the crossbar. But they did not need to score more.
Wenger’s men had outclassed.