FA Cup holders Arsenal coasted into the quarter-finals past a Middlesbrough side who were on their best run for 20 years having won six consecutive games before this. The Gunners produced a brilliant first half performance that was capped by two goals in two minutes from Oliver Giroud to seal their passage.
We take a look at things that we learnt from the game.
Arsenal play the best football in England on their day
23 shots, 716 passes and 29 dribbles, Arsenal had it all. There was quick interplay, fast breathtaking one-touch football which was incredibly pleasing to the eye. The opener came after the entire team on the pitch had touched the ball.
Arsene Wenger summed it up well: “We started well, with a good pace and we controlled the game with our movement and technical quality. We had good team focus overall, we maybe lost our cohesion a little bit at 2-0 but I am happy. Overall we were serious and focussed over the whole game.
The Gunners are favourites to retain the FA Cup
Having ended a nine-year trophy drought last season, Arsenal are gunning to return to the hallowed grounds which brought them that honour. They are just one more win away from Wembley and they look good value to go all the way with not many top teams remaining in the competition. Of the five Premier League teams remaining, Liverpool and Manchester United are the two other major contenders, but if Arsenal play like they did against Boro, the teams from North-West of England should be very concerned about their own chances.
Oliver Giroud should start as the striker ahead of Danny Welbeck
Giroud bagged a brace to further prove that he should be the main striker at the club capable of finishing off moves as well as providing moments of brilliance. His second was a sweet volley straight from a corner when his near-post run went untracked. The Frenchman is good with his movement and link-up play with the plethora of playmakers that Arsenal possess, and is also a threat in the air.
“Olivier Giroud was very sharp and he has improved a lot compared to the player he was when he arrived here,” Wenger said of the striker post game. “He is mobile, technically good, and he works with great focus in training. He has become a top player.”
Santi Cazorla is in the form of his life
The 30-year-old Spaniard has been in scintillating form since the turn of the year popping up all over the pitch, starting attacks, providing assists as well as getting on the scoresheet once in a while. He dictated the play on his tunes and initiated attacks from the base of midfield, combining well with Ozil and Sanchez ahead of him.
It was his wonderful pass for Gibbs that made the opener, and he hogged the ball with 128 touches – the highest of any player. An astonishing 114 passes were attempted by him with an accuracy of 91.2%.
With his brilliant displays, Cazorla leads the charge for Arsenal’s race for the top four in the league as well as the knockout round of the FA Cup as well as the Champions League.