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Not Per-fect but Arsenal got the job done with another Cup win over Hull

Mertesacker and Sanchez grabbed the goals as Theo Walcott made his first start in a year.

ARSENAL GOT BACK on track as Per Mertesacker helped the FA Cup holders silence the critics with a 2-0 win over Hull in the third round.

Arsene Wenger’s side had come in for more vitriolic abuse after the latest setback in their spluttering campaign at Southampton in midweek, but Mertesacker’s first half opener and an Alexis Sanchez strike in the closing stages erased the bitter taste of that 2-0 defeat.

Mertesacker had shouldered his share of the blame for Arsenal’s fragile defensive displays this season, but the German centre-back produced the perfect response in freezing conditions at the Emirates Stadium.

Sanchez weighed in as well with a fine finish which condemned Hull to more FA Cup misery eight months after Arsenal came from two goals down to beat the Tigers in the final at Wembley.

That victory ended Arsenal’s nine-year trophy drought and was supposed to signal the start of a new era of success for the north Londoners, but instead their campaign has been marred by the same inconsistencies that have plagued them for so long.

Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Arsenal v Hull City - The Emirates Stadium Walcott's first start since damaging his cruciate last January is sure to give Arsenal fans renewed confidence about how the remainder of the season will go. Source: Daniel Hambury/PA Wire/Press Association Images

In the circumstances, Wenger will have been pleased with a routine win and the return of Theo Walcott, who made his first start since suffering serious knee injury exactly a year ago against Tottenham at the same stage of the Cup.

Walcott, 25, missed Arsenal’s FA Cup final win and England’s World Cup campaign as a result of the injury and had only 51 minutes of first-team action in three substitute appearances since then.

But he lasted for 76 minutes on his return to the line-up and Arsenal’s attack should be stronger if he can stay fit in the second half of the season.

Hull, battling at the wrong end of the Premier League, made their priorities clear with 10 changes from the team which beat Everton on New Year’s Day and it was no surprise to see them struggle to get a foothold in the game.

Britain Soccer FA Cup Source: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Press Association Images

Arsenal’s dominance was rewarded as they took the lead in the 20th minute.

It was a moment of redemption for Mertesacker, who had been criticised for his sloppy defending in the Southampton debacle.

Sanchez swung over a deep corner towards the far post and Mertesacker rose above Hull captain Curtis Davies to head down and past Harper.

Walcott showed a glimpse of his best asset, his blistering pace, as he surged onto Santi Cazorla’s pass to test Harper with a side-footed effort. Later, he should have sealed the win when he collected Cazorla’s defence-splitting pass, but the winger miscued his shot well wide.
http://vine.co/v/OdwHiT2Earv

Sanchez finally put the result beyond doubt in the 82nd minute, taking Cazorla’s pass before spinning to find space to shoot low past Harper from the edge of the area.

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AFP

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