Arsenal progressed to the fourth round of the FA Cup as Oliver Giroud’s late goal saw off a spirited Preston at Deepdale. The Gunners had fallen behind to their Championship opponents when Callum Robinson took advantage of poor defending to finish from close range. Robinson then had a goal disallowed before Aaron Ramsey equalised early in the second half with a powerful drive. Giroud then sealed victory with his fourth goal in as many games. Wenger has now overseen 21 wins in the 21 FA Cup third-round games he has been in charge of at Arsenal, but it was far from a comfortable win after a disappointing first-half display in which Preston were unfortunate not to lead by more than one goal. Just four days ago, Arsene Wenger’s side produced a shambolic opening 45 minutes at Bournemouth that left them trailing 2-0 at half-time.
They managed to turn things around in the second half to rescue a 3-3 draw, but for Arsenal fans there will have been a worrying sense of deja vu during the early stages of the first half on Saturday. Preston, 11th in the Championship, have scored in every game they have played since 19 November and immediately had the Gunners defence on the back foot. Aiden McGeady’s creativity proved particularly troublesome for the visitors and the former Everton man played a pivotal role in Preston’s opener. He beat Ramsey with a clever spin before his pass between Nacho Monreal and Gabriel ricocheted into Robinson’s path and the forward fired home. The rest of the key chances in the first half fell Preston’s way, as David Ospina saved well from Ben Pearson before Robinson had a goal disallowed. But to Arsenal’s credit, they improved after the break. Ramsey’s strike came out of nothing as he drove in from the edge of the area and they were more successful at containing Preston’s attacks.
It looked like the tie was heading for a replay at Emirates Stadium but Giroud, who scored a 90th-minute equaliser against Bournemouth, left it late again and his deflected finish from Lucas Perez’s clever backheel in the final minute ended Preston’s resistance. Giroud’s long-term future at Arsenal had seemed uncertain as he started the campaign on the bench and had to wait until November to make his first start. However, the France striker has enjoyed a fine run of form since 26 December. He has scored four goals, including the winner against West Brom, the ‘scorpion’ goal against Crystal Palace and the dramatic Bournemouth equaliser. Against Preston he was made Arsenal captain for the first time – perhaps as reward for his recent resurgence – and the 30-year-old could prove crucial in their bid to end the season with silverware. Arsenal have progressed past the third round of the FA Cup in each of the past 21 seasons, the longest current run in the competition. Indeed, Arsene Wenger has never lost at this stage, with Arsenal last being eliminated by Sheffield United in 1996.
Olivier Giroud has scored in each of his past eight starts for Arsenal in all competitions, netting 10 goals in total. Despite having the same number of attempts as Arsenal in the first half (eight), Preston failed to muster a single shot after half-time. Arsenal have lost just one of their past 37 FA Cup ties against lower league opposition (0-1 v Blackburn in February 2013). Four of Aaron Ramsey’s five FA Cup goals have come in a third-round tie, with the other coming in the 2014 final. Preston have lost 15 of their past 16 FA Cup games against top-flight sides, with a solitary win coming at Derby in January 2008 (4-1).