Arsenal’s youngsters turned on the style in scoring two flowing team goals in a 2-1 win over Bournemouth that secured a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Monday.
The methods of recently hired manager Mikel Arteta looked to be taking hold as 18-year-old left-back Bukayo Saka finished off a sweeping, 22-pass move with a thunderous shot in off the crossbar in the fifth minute.
More great passing and movement ended with 20-year-old striker Eddie Nketiah, who recently returned to the club after a loan spell at second-tier Leeds, stroking in a close-range finish in the 26th.
Substitute Sam Surridge set up a tense finish with a goal for Bournemouth in the fourth minute of second-half injury time, but Arsenal held on to book a last-16 match against third-tier Portsmouth in early March.
It is a month since Arteta took charge of his first game as Arsenal manager - in a 1-1 draw at Bournemouth on Dec. 26 - and a return to Vitality Stadium gave an indication of the team’s progress under the Spaniard.
The evidence suggests things are looking up for the north London club, which didn’t even need its two star strikers - Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (suspended) and Alexandre Lacazette (unused substitute) - to get past its fellow Premier League side.
Arteta also rested important first-teamers such as midfielders Lucas Torreira and Mesut Ozil and goalkeeper Bernd Leno, choosing to field a young side that especially impressed in the first half.
“Mikel is trying to bring back the philosophy of the Arsenal passing way," Saka said, “and I felt like we played really good football in the first half.”
Bournemouth came back into the game after halftime but didn’t seriously test Arsenal backup goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez until Surridge's goal, even after Arsenal center back Shkodran Mustafi was carried off on a stretcher in the 62nd minute with what appeared to be a serious ankle injury.
Arsenal ended a run of three straight draws under Arteta and is unbeaten in their last six games.
The loss means Bournemouth can focus on staying in the Premier League. Eddie Howe’s team is in the relegation zone with 14 games left.
“We gave it a good go in the end. It was just a poor start,” Howe said. “Tough first half-hour and struggled to deal with their movement. We weren't ourselves.”