Lincoln rout buys Wenger time but Arsenal must beat big boys to prove his worth

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The win over the non-league side takes the Gunners one step closer to silverware - but they'll need to beat a Premier League giant to lift the cup

Arsenal have given themselves some required breathing space after beating non-league Lincoln City 5-0 to reach the FA Cup semi-finals.

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The Gunners struggled to carve out any opportunity of note in the first half until Theo Walcott struck a vital goal on the stroke of half-time and, from then on, it was rather simple for Arsene Wenger’s men.

After a torturous week, which had seen Arsenal battered 5-1 by Bayern Munich for a second time, there were again protests before the game, with a reported 150 fans voicing their discontent on the streets of north London through the display of anti-Wenger banners and chants, one of which included a bizarre sign saying ‘Wexit’.

Lincoln’s burly frontman Matt Rhead had also said before the game that Wenger’s side are in their worst period under the Frenchman and there would no better time to capitalise on their poor form. His cheeky back-heel in the first 10 minutes provided a sign of Lincoln’s confidence and who could blame them after recent victories in this competition over Premier League and Championship opposition.

"We were a bit nervous because we knew your confidence drops when you don't have a result," said Wenger after the match. 

"The criticism wasn’t justified from our last match. I watched this game three times now and the referee killed the game"

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However, the first-half introduction of Mesut Ozil for a once-again injured Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain turned the tempo in Arsenal’s favour.

Ozil

Ozil’s introduction saw him almost score shortly before the break with a cross which was tipped past the post, but it was Walcott who broke the deadlock with his fifth FA Cup goal of the season to stand alone as the competition's leading scorer this term.

Walcott netted an impressive strike against Bayern Munich earlier in the week and he could be set for a record goalscoring campaign if he carries on such splendid form.

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The second half saw Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey got on the scoresheet, in addition to an own goal, as the Gunners reached the semi-finals for the third time in the last four seasons.

But beating a team with no major trophies in their history, and which spent nothing last summer, will not provide a true test of Arsenal's qualities. Instead that will come with a likely game against one of Spurs, Man City, Chelsea or Man Utd at Wembley in the semi-finals.

Lincoln manager Danny Cowley revealed after the game that he had been invited into Wenger's office for a post-match Coca-Cola and football discussion. He's been a credit to Lincoln during this cup run and the terrific support of 9000 in the away end was deservedly by commended by Francis Coquelin and Theo Walcott at full-time.

Pressure has softened slightly on Wenger after the Lincoln win but you can guarantee that supporters will continue to voice their concerns, even if in a minority.

For now, the Arsenal manager can be reassured that Arsenal are in the latter stages of a competition which could give them some silverware come the end of the season. Will it be enough to appease those who want him gone? The jury’s still out on that.

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