It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t easy, but we finally managed a win against Preston North End in the FA Cup.

Arsenal got off to a nightmare start against Preston North End after some lovely passing from the home side led to an opening goal in the seventh minute from 21-year-old Callum Robinson.

The Gunners appeared to still be asleep, getting easily caught offside and missing their targets. Lucas Perez did have a shot saved early on but it didn’t really trouble the Preston goalkeeper.

Arsenal gradually began to grow into the game, the way we do when teams start to let us string some passes together. However, in the final third, we consistently ran into the well-organised Preston defence who had us covered.

A poor offside decision from the lino denied Robinson another goal. However, he made short work of attempting to rectify this and Shkodran Mustafi was forced to pull off an impressive block before another Preston player missed a tap-in.

Preston were cutting through our defence like butter.

The visitors looked devoid of ideas, inspiration or desire. Like confused teenagers nervously tapping the ball around to each other before one of them made a break, only to get chased down.

Preston had another chance to double their lead in the 35th minute when David Ospina came galloping out of goal. Luckily, Nacho Monreal was there to clear the danger. It was getting embarrassing.

After Aaron Ramsey had a decent chance but failed to actually take it, the home side had yet another goal disallowed due to an elbow on Ospina.

Not long after, another ‘trailing elbow’ managed to split Gabriel’s temple open, causing him to need treatment. Although our defence had been so terrible, not having him on the pitch hardly made a difference.

Arsenal started the second half brightly, bringing the score to level terms through Aaron Ramsey’s first goal of the season within a minute. It was a stunning strike and exactly what we needed to get going. Mental strength and all that…

This second half Arsenal was the Arsenal we wanted to see: pressing, turning the screw, finding space and hunting the ball down when we lost it.

As the second half continued, both teams began to grow frustrated. Preston, because they were finding it difficult keeping up with us; Arsenal, because the home side were still managing to do just enough to prevent us from scoring a second goal.

In the 77th minute we managed to have a minor breakthrough when Olivier Giroud scored but it was offside.

Finally, after almost eight months out with a knee injury, it was time for Danny Welbeck to come on for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was disappointing against the Championship opponents. Although, so were most of the team.

Minutes for the end, just as we were all imagining having to play a replay against Preston, adding another fixture to the list, a gorgeous backwards pass from Lucas assisted Giroud, who scored to put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the game.

Far from the emphatic, comfortable victory we would have preferred but a victory none the less. Credit where it’s due, Preston were brilliant and coulda/woulda/shoulda been two or three goals to the good before half time. I’m sure they’ll be fine this season.

Arsenal, on the other hand, despite winning, do need to start asking questions about why our players look so devoid of inspiration for such long periods.

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