Lukas Podolski scored a first-half double as Arsenal advanced to the FA Cup fifth round with a comfortable 4-0 victory at home to League One side Coventry City on Friday at the Emirates Stadium in London.
Podolski scored in the 15th and 27th minutes as Arsenal won their seventh-straight match in all competitions. Substitute Olivier Giroud put the match beyond doubt with Arsenal's third in the 84th minute, and Santi Cazorla added the fourth in the closing moments.
FT Stats Arsenal v Coventry Shots 19-8 On target 5-3, Fouls 4-5 Duels Won 54%-46%, Pass Accuracy 91%-86%, Possession 61%-39% #FACup— Orbinho (@Orbinho) January 24, 2014
During the match, unconfirmed reports indicated Arsenal's rumoured chase of Schalke's Julian Draxler could be heating up. Retired Norwegian footballer Jan Aage Fjortoft reported via Twitter that Arsenal and Schalke had agreed on a fee for the German attacker.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger denied any agreement in his post-match remarks, via Miguel Delaney of ESPN:
Wenger on Draxler: "That again is an illusion. There is nothing happening. There is no need to take a player on the flank."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) January 24, 2014
Arsene Wenger made six changes to the starting XI that won 2-0 at home to Fulham in the league last weekend. Lukasz Fabianski started ahead of Wojciech Szczesny in goal, while full-backs Carl Jenkinson and Kieran Gibbs came into the side. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain slotted into the midfield, with Podolski and Nicklas Bendtner leading the attack.
Coventry entered the match on a six-game unbeaten run, but the visitors quickly found Premier League opposition a step up in quality. Arsenal quickly settled into their possession and began probing Coventry's defence down the flanks for weaknesses.
The hosts had their best opening of the early exchanges in the ninth minute, when Carl Jenkinson crossed from the right for Lukas Podolski in the middle. The German forward put a foot to Jenkinson's cross, but his first-time shot was over the bar.
The hosts kept attacking, however, and in the 15th minute, Podolski put Arsenal ahead 1-0.
Oxlade-Chamberlain won possession in midfield, and Jack Wilshere passed to Mesut Ozil just outside the box. Ozil laid off for Podolski, who rounded Coventry goalkeeper Joe Murphy and finished calmly with his favoured left foot from a tight angle on the left.
Fabianski made a fine save from Carl Baker's powerful, high drive in the 18th minute to keep Arsenal ahead. Less than 10 minutes later, it was 2-0.
Gnabry took a corner on the left that was met by Mertesacker at the near post. Mertesacker flicked a header to the back post, where Podolski headed into the net.
5 - Lukas Podolski has recorded five goals in his last six appearances in all competitions. Threat.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 24, 2014
Podolski had a chance to finish his hat-trick in the 38th minute, but he shot over the goal from the middle of the box with his right foot.
Arsenal carried a comfortable 2-0 lead into half-time, but within moments of the restart, it was clear the visitors weren't finished.
Coventry had an excellent chance to get back into the match in the 50th minute, when Leon Clarke beat the offside trap and burst free behind Arsenal's defence on the right. But with Laurent Koscielny chasing, Clarke shot at Fabianksi from a tight angle and the Arsenal keeper saved.
Clarke came even closer in the 56th minute, side-footing a shot off the post after being teed up by Franck Moussa.
The match then became wide open, and Podolski had another chance to complete his hat-trick in the 62nd minute after being free by Wilshere's pass. But instead of shooting, Podolski opted to cut back a pass, which was intercepted.
Arsenal made a pair of changes in the 71st minute. Santi Cazorla, who scored both goals against Fulham last weekend, replaced the ineffective Bendtner, while 16-year-old Gedion Zelalem came on for Oxlade-Chamberlain for his first-team debut.
Gedion Zelalem coming on: the first #afc player to be born after Wenger took over as manager in 96. Zelalem born Jan 26, 1997— Henry Winter (@henrywinter) January 24, 2014
Podolski's day was finished in the 79th minute, when Olivier Giroud entered as Arsenal's third and final substitute.
Giroud needed little time to find the scoresheet. In the 84th minute, Cazorla freed Gibbs with a pass on the left side of the box, and Gibbs pulled back for Giroud in the middle. From there, the French striker finished coolly with his first touch, sweeping the ball into the net at the near post.
Cazorla added Arsenal's fourth in the 89th minute, bouncing in a close-range rebound from the middle after Jenkinson's initial shot was saved.
Arsenal nearly had a fifth in stoppage time, but Ozil's shot on the left hit the post and bounced away to safety.
Wenger: "Podolski can score goals, when you have a goal chance you want him to have it. He is very accurate" #AFCvCCFC— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) January 24, 2014
Arsenal return to the Premier League on Tuesday with a match at Southampton.
Coventry play at Leyton Orient in League One on Tuesday.