Arsenal have progressed to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup after AFC Wimbledon’s first visit to the Emirates ended in a 3-0 defeat.
Captain for the night Alexandre Lacazette put the Gunners ahead from the penalty spot after just 11 minutes before two goals from Emile Smith-Rowe and Eddie Nketiah in three second-half minutes put the game beyond any doubt.
As comfortable as the final scoreline proved, the Dons did have chances of their own and the travelling support can be proud of how the League One side responded to a tough test.
Mark Robinson made just three changes to his side while Thomas Partey was the only player to reprise his role for Mikel Arteta’s side as the Spaniard handed some of his fringe players a chance to impress.
They certainly did in the opening exchanges and with Wimbledon kept pinned inside their own half, the pressure built.
After 11 minutes the Gunners got their opener through Lacazette when Gabriel Martinelli was scythed down after charging into the box and was and the French striker made no mistake from 12 yards.
A quick break gave them a chance to double their lead moments later but a vital challenge from Jack Rudoni ensured that the scores stayed level.
Robinson’s side have scored 10 of their 16 goals this season from set-pieces, including penalties, and it was no surprise that a corner brought their first significant attempt of the half after 20 minutes though Ben Heneghan’s header was blocked by a mass of bodies in front of the Arsenal goal.
The Gunners remained the team in ascendancy as the half wore on but to their credit, the visitors continued to look to play their game – looking to build from the back and move the ball around quickly to create space.
But Martinelli and Cedric Soares continued to cause them problems down the right flank and were it not for a few hurried clearances inside the six-yard box, they could’ve been two-down nine minutes before the break.
Their final chance of the half came three minutes before the referee’s whistle but a mix of determination and sheer luck helped the Dons ensure that a goalmouth scramble from a corner didn’t result in a second for the home side.
The right flank had been the area causing all of the problems for Wimbledon before the break but the left side was where most of Arsenal’s chances came from in the opening 15 minutes of the second period.
Left-back Nuno Tavares looked particularly impressive and saw a header come back off the left-hand post just past the hour mark.
Robinson’s side were not without chances of their own, though, with some slick interplay between Ayoub Assal and substitute Aaron Pressley delivered their first significant opportunity with just less than 25 minutes to go – Cedric’s intervention vital for the hosts as he arrived just in time to put the latter’s low cross off the back.
The game started to open up as the Dons looked to force the issue inside the last 20 minutes but it was still Arteta’s side having most of the chances and they doubled their lead in the 77th minute through substitute Smith-Rowe.
Some patient build-up play around the Wimbledon box allowed Lacazette two attempts at teeing up Smith-Rowe and the second was stabbed the past Tzanev.
The second was quickly followed by a third when Nketiah burst across the front post and flicked a low cross through his own legs and into the far corner.
Wimbledon had a chance to reply almost instantly when Ethan Chislett rose highest to connect with a ball floated into the box but his header flew wide.
Bukayo Saka’s 76th-minute introduction drew perhaps the loudest roar of the night from the Emirates faithful and he nearly repaid them with a goal in the dying embers of the game – curling an effort wide of the post and then forcing a diving save from Tzanev.
A comprehensive win for the Gunners, who move to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, but not a defeat that is likely to halt Wimbledon’s momentum or should take away any of the positivity around the club at the moment.
FULL TIME: Arsenal 3-0 AFC Wimbledon