Bournemouth 1-2 Arsenal: Saka and Nketiah shine as Gunners' FA Cup run continues
Photo by Noelia Diaz for VAVEL Images

Arsenal eased past Bournemouth 2-1 to progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup at the Vitality Stadium on Monday evening. 

First half goals from Bukayo Saka and Eddie Nketiah ensured Mikel Arteta's Gunners would face Portsmouth in late February. 

Despite a late Sam Surridge goal there were smiles all round at a solid team performance which also featured excellent link-up play down the left-flank between Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.

Arteta was also pleased that his side would not have their midseason break disrupted with an unnecessary replay as the north London giants continued on the road to Wembley.  

Story of the match

Arsenal went 1-0 ahead as early as the fifth minute though a goal from teenage talent Saka.

The left-sided 18-year-old attacker from Greenford - who has been filling in admirably at left-back for Arteta - showed he has finishing ability to match his ever-growing defensive discipline.

Saka, who notched his first senior goal during the 3-0 Europa League victory over Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany back in September, added another cup goal to his tally by finishing emphatically from close range.

The assist was provided by Martinelli, another talented young gun who has benefited from the belief shown in him by head coach Arteta recently. Saka concluded a sweeping move by the Gunners to silence Cherries fans, buoyed by the prospect of a possible fifth round tie with south coast rivals Pompey.  

The Gunners dominated the opening stages with Joe Willock going close in the box after being played in by captain for the evening Hector Bellerin.  

A second goal was to follow in the 26th minute to cap another flowing move prompted by an excellent cross field ball by Willock which saw the lively Saka whip a cross in from the left flank.

The ball evaded Martinelli in the middle before Nketiah slotted home from close range to make it 2-0.

For those present at Bloomfield Road a year ago this month that saw a dejected Nketiah troop off after snatching at a couple of chances in the third round of the FA Cup, it was fitting that the lauded knock-out tournament provided the stage for his first Gunners goal of the season.

For while Nketiah's misses did not prove costly during that 3-0 win over a troubled Blackpool side on the Flyde Coast, it did have repercussions for the Lambeth-born striker for the rest of the season as it affected his confidence greatly. 

Fast forward 12 months and the hope is very much that the highly-rated 20-year-old can kick on and showcase his skills for Arteta's side for the remainder of the season, before a big decision is made on his future. 

The Arteta effect was certainly in force when the travelling Arsenal supporters sang Shkodran Mustafi's name loudly before the break, proof that the club is a fair more united place under their former midfielder now tuned boss, than the toxicity around at the end of Unai Emery's unfortunate tenure.  

Even the backline looked solid as stand-in keeper Emi Martinez blocked a powerful low shot from Harry Wilson before half-time as the visitors went into the break 2-0 ahead and coasting. 

While the temperature dropped at the former Dean Court onfield relations ramped up with both sides taking part in a series of niggling fouls and minor flashpoint, culminating in Mustafi stretchered off with Rob Holding replacing him at centre-back.

The Cherries nearly pulled a goal back when Jack Simpson headed over the bar in a crowded box on 65 minutes as the rain started to fall again in Boscombe, where the Vitality is situated. 

Dani Ceballos came on for Nicolas Pepe but Bournemouth in January is completely different to Burnley at the Emirates in August as the Real Madrid loanee attempted to recreate his early season magic as the January rain lashed down.

As the clock ticked down a series of robust challenges were enacted on the visitors which saw Bellerin and Sokratis receive treatment at various stages. 

However, what opposition players fail to realise is that Arteta's Arsenal are made of far sterner stuff and merely shrugged off the agricultural approach as they looked towards a date in north west London in the merry month of May. 

There is a lot of work to be done before that wish of course - as witnessed by Surridge's late strike and a Lewis Cook effort that flew over the bar, which prompted memories of late comebacks, none more so than the ridiculous 3-3 draw here two years ago - yet under the impressive Arteta there is hope, allied with a newfound tenacity. 

No wonder the loyal travelling Gooners massed behind the goal lustily sang their Wembley song.

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