Plymouth sunk after broadside from Van Persie

Arsenal 3 Plymouth Argyle 1

Sketchy stuff, but not every masterpiece is vivid from the first draft. It is only a year since Aaron Ramsey made his full debut for Cardiff City, in the same round of the FA Cup, and saw Chasetown take an early lead. It finished 3-1 that day, and it was an identical story here, plucky opposition ultimately failing to bridge a gulf in class. Only this time, in the absence of Cesc Fabregas, Ramsey found himself orchestrating a midfield eligible to emulate Cardiff by going all the way to Wembley.

Whether measured by their present frailties or enduring strengths, this tournament remains a bespoke fit for Arsenal. To those who perceive a lack of fortitude in their team, its staccato demands are more suitable than the unremitting challenge of the Premier League.

To those, equally, who consider Arsène Wenger custodian of not just another generation of meteors but also some of the most wholesome values of the game itself, there is an obvious contiguity between their fortunes and those of the sport's most romantic competition. Both have had their difficulties, in trying to stem the corrosive tides of the modern game, but the 7,000 Argyle fans were by no means the only Pilgrims present.

At least they were determined to enjoy themselves, which is more than can be said of their hosts in the first half. Wenger had promised to take nothing for granted, and rested only Manuel Almunia and Emmanuel Adebayor, in whose respective absences Robin van Persie became the club's fourth captain of the season, and was joined up front by Niklas Bendtner.

But while the latter had switched his pink boots for a lime-green pair, they seemed to set a rather bilious tone. The Dane was having one of those hapless afternoons of his, with that propensity to manoeuvre intelligently into position only to tangle his feet once the ball arrives.

He did manage one fine diving header as half-time approached, narrowly wide, in common with efforts from Van Persie and Emmanuel Eboué, while Romain Larrieu had proved equal to shots from Ramsey and Eboué. Plymouth had meanwhile caused Lucasz Fabianski several twitchy moments, not least in tipping over a deft, curling shot from Paul Gallagher.

Arsenal were guilty of too many miscues, too many hesitations. Withinfive minutes of the resumption, however, they were two up. Van Persiewas integral to both goals, stooping to head Samir Nasri's corner into the roof of the net and then firing a low ball across goal, bundled home by David Gray under pressure from Bendtner. However, they promptly allowed Plymouth back in, Gray at once atoning for his blunder by picking out Karl Duguid 15 yards out.

Arsenal never lost their composure, nor the initiative, creating several chances – Bendtner skimming the bar and Nasri's lob cleared off the line – before Van Persie was put through by Nasri and beat Larrieu at the second attempt. Nasri's blocked shot also looped on to the bar and Ramsey was denied by the keeper at full stretch.

"Had we not been focused and completely up for it, we would not have gone through today," Wenger said. "The gap between the Championship and the Premier League has been reduced, the results today prove that."

Plymouth's manager, Paul Sturrock, said: "If someone had told me that we'd be chasing the game seven minutes from the end, I'd have bitten their hand off."

Attendance: 59,424

Referee: Mike Jones

Man of the match: Van Persie

Match rating: 6/10

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice