BRING on Chelsea. Born again Andrey Arshavin led the Gunners as their red-hot streak continued.
By ANTONY KASTRINAKIS
It was the perfect boost ahead of the titanic clash with European champions Chelsea here at the Emirates on Saturday.
The benefits for Arsene Wenger’s team, who now go to Reading in the last 16, were plentiful.
Olivier Giroud finally broke his duck with a wonderful opener and Theo Walcott rediscovered his touch with a double in only his second start this season.
It could have gone wrong, though, when Giroud missed a second-half penalty after two would-be ‘streakers’ got on the pitch and had hapless stewards running all over the pitch to detain them.
But Arsenal, unbeaten in all seven games this term, put on the afterburners and disappeared into the distance.
In his first Arsenal start since January, Arshavin ran the show from start to finish, making three goals and netting one himself.
He was simply sublime.
Coventry arrived winless in League One and bereft of confidence. They put up a brave fight but were consumed by an Arsenal fire.
Wenger wanted a result and a performance.
He got both after giving keeper Damian Martinez, 20, and Swiss Under-19 starlet Martin Angha their debuts.
But for much of the first half, the visitors’ 6,000 fans had most to cheer as the Gunners took 35 minutes to muster a shot on goal.
Francis Coquelin swivelled beautifully to feed Giroud, who pulled the trigger instantly but it went straight at Joe Murphy.
Four minutes later, the pair combined again and this time Giroud finished like a world-class hitman to register his first goal since arriving in the summer for £13million.
Just after the restart Arsenal got a penalty as Reece Brown bundled Arshavin over.
Two streakers promptly appeared from the Coventry end and even ref Michael Jones saw the funny side in the two-minute stoppage.
It was not funny for Wenger as Giroud was clearly affected by the wait and had his penalty saved by Murphy.
And the home side could have paid a heavy price as Richard Wood headed inches wide on 54 minutes. But it was game over three minutes later when Arshavin fed Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who boomed in a 28-yarder.
Russian Arshavin soon capped an all-star display with a fine third on 63 minutes.
Nico Yennaris found Giroud who played Arshavin in perfectly to slot home.
Walcott then got in on the act, racing clear to beat Murphy with a crisp finish.
The biggest cheer of the night, though, was for Callum Ball, who tucked in a Coventry consolation. But seconds later Arshavin crossed and Ignasi Miquel headed a brilliant fifth.
Walcott saved the best until last as he ran 50 yards at the death to slot home. It was the kind of goal Arsenal’s previous No 14 used to score.
Now if only he can do the same on Saturday…
DREAM TEAM RATINGS
STAR MAN – ANDREY ARSHAVIN
ARSENAL: Martinez 6, Angha 5, Djourou 6, Miquel 7, Santos 6, Coquelin 7 (Frimpong 6), Yennaris 7, Walcott 8, ARSHAVIN 9, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Gnabry 7), Giroud 8 (Chamakh 5). Subs not used: Squillaci, Bellerin, Eisfeld, Shea.