A Theo Walcott hat-trick helped Arsenal see off Southampton, as they strolled to a 5-0 win to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup.
The visitors were 3-0 up before half-time, with the returning Danny Welbeck scoring twice, before Walcott completed his hat-trick in the second half, as Arsenal eased to victory and book their place in the last 16.
Southampton manager Claude Puel made ten changes from the side that beat Liverpool in the EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday, with Jack Stephens, who impressed at Anfield, the only player to also start tonight’s tie.
Arsene Wenger, who served the first of a four-match touchline ban, also made ten changes to his team, with centre-back Skhodran Mustafi the sole survivor from Arsenal’s dramatic 2-1 win over Burnley last weekend.
Danny Welbeck also made his first start of the season on his return from injury, and he nearly made it a dream return. It was in the 4th minute when Lucas Pérez sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal, but Welbeck couldn’t manage to get a touch on it to send it goalwards.
Welbeck wasn’t to be denied for long, and he put Arsenal ahead in the 15th minute. Pérez played the ball into the path of the onrushing Welbeck, who took a touch before flicking the ball over Harry Lewis in Southampton’s goal.
Arsenal had settled the better of the two sides, and they scored again just seven minutes later. The move began with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who delivered a wonderful long ball towards Welbeck from his own half. The England striker still had a lot of work to do, taking a touch before firing through the legs of Lewis to double his and Arsenal’s tally.
Southampton began to wake up, and had a chance when David Ospina, deputising for Petr Cech, charged out of his area, but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg volleyed over the bar with the goal gaping.
Ospina redeemed himself a few minutes later, saving well from Long’s effort after he ran on to meet Cuco Martina’s excellent through ball.
However, Arsenal then delivered another blow that seemingly ended the tie as a contest before half-time. Welbeck once again ran onto a through ball from Pérez before sending the ball towards the edge of the six-yard box, where Walcott was waiting to apply the finishing touch.
The intensity of the game was much lower in the early minutes of the second half, with Arsenal happy to knock the ball around with little challenge from Southampton.
There was to be no hat-trick on his return for Welbeck, as he was replaced by Alexis Sánchez with 64 minutes on the clock. Sanchez made an almost immediate impact, and set up Arsenal’s fourth goal a few minutes later, as he pulled the ball back for Walcott to score his second of the game.
With the result no longer in doubt, the intensity dropped even further. Arsenal were playing the ball around with little difficulty, and David Ospina seemingly toyed with the Southampton forwards by regularly passing the ball around with his feet on multiple occasions.
There was a glimmer of a chance for a Southampton consolation as substitute Dusan Tadic looked to be in on goal as he received the ball from Hojbjerg in the Arsenal area. However, he was quickly surrounded by yellow shirts and the ball was cleared from danger.
With the clock running down, there was still time for a fifth goal for the visitors. Sanchez bore down on goal before finding Walcott, who stroked the ball past Lewis from 12 yards to complete his hat-trick and cap off a miserable evening for Southampton.
Southampton: Lewis, Martina, Gardos, Stephens, McQueen, Reed, Clasie, Hojbjerg, Sims, Isgrove (Tadic 64), Long (c) (Redmond 64). Unused subs: Taylor, Yoshida, Bertrand, Davis, Romeu.
Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerín, Mustafi, Holding, Gibbs (c), Oxlade-Chamberlain, Maitland-Niles, Walcott, Reine-Adelaide (Iwobi 72), Pérez, Welbeck (Sánchez 64) Unused subs: Martínez, Jenkinson, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Monreal.
Goals: Danny Welbeck (15, 22), Theo Walcott (35, 69, 84)
Man of the Match: x