Arsenal 2-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Tell 'Em the Score, Theo!

It may not have had the same spark that many other editions of this fixture have had, but it turned out to be enjoyable all the same as a rampant Arsenal overwhelmed their oddly-sedate counterparts to progress to the 4th round of the FA Cup.

Many of us (myself included, I won't lie) would not have been so sanguine before the match given the team sheet that Arsene Wenger put out. Theo Walcott was on his own up top, Per Mertesacker was rested, and there were starts for young Serge Gnabry and Lukasz Fabianski in goal. Meanwhile, our nearest and dearest fielded a full-strength lineup.

That said, caretaker manager Tim Sherwood deployed them in a straight 4-4-2 formation, guaranteeing that their central pair would get overwhelmed by a wave of red shirts. With Walcott playing more as a false nine than an out-and-out striker, that left them often having to defend two-on-four in the middle. Needless to say, they struggled to keep hold of the ball and left their front two largely starved of service.

Maybe there really is something to this "Sherwood is a Gooner" lark, after all. 

That's not to say that they didn't have their chances, though. Arsenal's makeshift defense did fall asleep at times, the dreaded Thomas Vermaelen - Laurent Koscielny pairing once again showing that it is less than ideal. Ten minutes in, Christian Eriksen zipped past the dozing Gunners' backline and came in alone on Fabianski.

Remember this moment when we talk about the heroes of the game. We'll get to Tomas Rosicky, and Santi Cazorla, and Gnabry, and Mertesacker. But, if Eriksen scores there, I insist that this is a vastly different match - one we may not have gone on to win. Fabianski - rightly so, in many cases - has gotten a ton of stick from Arsenal supporters in the past. He's gone on to become a solid backup though, and he went a long way towards winning us the points here by staying composed (and more importantly, upright) as Eriksen walked in. The Dane tried to go near post, and was denied by the keeper's trailing leg.

It was a massive save, and the home side kicked on from there. Walcott tested Hugo Lloris with a low rasper, and Gnabry blazed one over the bar soon after. Arsenal became more comfortable and more threatening, while Spurs lost much of their attacking impetus. The one time they did reach our area, Vermaelen came up with a brilliant saving tackle to clear the danger.

We should have been 1-0 up immediately after, as the fantastic Rosicky shredded the visitors' defense with a long diagonal ball. Walcott ran onto it, and had Nacho Monreal all alone on the back post (this was a constant theme - Kyle Walker had a mare at RB for them, as we'll see on our first goal). Instead of squaring it out to him though, he hit a tame shot directly at Lloris.

Spurs ignored the warning signs though, and a mirror image of that play resulted in the game's opening goal. This time, it was Gnabry who played the pass into the path of the wide-open Cazorla. Once again, Walker had gone walkabout, leaving the Spaniard with acres to operate in. The shot was still on a tough angle though, but Cazorla threaded the needle into the far post perfectly. Lloris might be a bit disappointed though - he cheated to the near post and was already falling over to that side as Santi was taking the shot. I remind you again of Fabianski's composure under fire when Eriksen was in alone.

Unlike so many other NLDs, one side scoring did not spark the other into life. Spurs looked to be going through the motions, bereft of ideas as to what to do the rare times they did have the ball. Rosicky put in a performance that Ray Parlour would be proud of, harrying and chasing with boundless energy. Gnabry was excellent on the ball, helping us keep possession. Monreal arguably had his best match in our colors, with no evidence of his former positional issues seeping into his play.

Our nearest and dearest did wake up a bit after the restart, but Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor displayed varying levels of uselessness. The latter's fresh-air swipe at a loose ball was an appreciated moment of high comedy. Have some of that, you bastard.

Walcott's finishing wasn't much better, but thankfully we would not rely on him for goals. Danny Rose, who you may remember from one ridiculous wonder-goal against us (and absolutely nothing else) had the ball in a harmless area of midfield. He badly dawdled on it though, allowing Rosicky to storm in and win it off of him. That left him in alone on Lloris, who again committed a bit early. Tommy read that perfectly, and chipped it over the onrushing keeper.

Mertesacker had replaced Vermaelen at halftime, and later Flamini came on for Wilshere to shore things up. Soon after, Mesut Ozil came on for Mikel Arteta, surely in an attempt to generate a threat on the break. Unfortunately for us, Walcott went down injured with ten minutes to go. That left us down a man, and gave Spurs an avenue back into the match.

Well, it would have, if they weren't 100 million Euros of shit in a 50-million Euro bag.

That's the thing. They offered less than nothing going forward in that situation. It was not that long ago where we very easily could have shipped two or even three in that scenario. I mean, how psyched would the guy who went to Real Madrid have been to run at 10 men there? That guy is long gone though, and the Arsenal saw things through with a minimum of fuss.

So, as ever, mind the gap while in forever in our shadow, Tottenham. We'll send you a postcard from the 4th round, preferably with a picture of Theo's gesture from the stretcher on the front of it (why are we even surprised that their troglodyte supporters threw coins at him, by the way? Classless act from classless people).

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Fabianski 7, Monreal 8, Koscielny 7, Vermaelen 7 (Mertesacker 7), Sagna 7, Wilshere 6 (Flamini 7), Arteta 7 (Ozil 7), Gnabry 8, Cazorla 8, Rosicky 9, Walcott 6.

Man of the Match: Our all-action Czech, Tomas Rosicky