Arsene Wenger dodges bullet as Arsenal run riot over Lincoln to quieten voices of discontent for now

In the end, Arsene Wenger comfortably dodged the bullet that would have ended his Arsenal reign.

But, for a while at least at The Emirates last night, Lincoln’s gutsy fight still gave Wenger’s enemies more ammunition in their hunt to take out the beleaguered Frenchman.

Because for 45 minutes Wenger wore the look of a haunted man as the nation’s non-league darlings threatened the biggest upset of their incredible FA Cup journey.

Lincoln had already claimed the scalps of Championship Brighton and Ipswich before embarrassing Premier League Burnley at Turf Moor in the fifth round.

Arsenal would surely be a step too far they said. And they were right, of course as Wenger saw his stars run riot with four second half goals and enough near misses to win a couple of games.

Theo Walcott scores the opener
(Photo: Rex Features)
Olivier Giroud adds a second
(Photo: REUTERS)

But 5-0 doesn’t quite tell the full story.

For despite bidding an emotional farewell to the fame and fortune brought by their incredible run to the last eight, this was still a day to remember in Lincoln’s history.

After the 5-1 Champions League beating by Bayern Munich this was probably a match made in heaven for Wenger.

His wounded players against a team running more on belief and adrenalin than quality, what could go wrong?

But until Theo Walcott ended the fairytale a minute into first-half stoppage time it looked like a game from hell as Lincoln summoned one last hurrah in front of their 9,000 adoring fans watching on from the Clock End.

To the anti-Wenger brigade who want to see time called on his days in charge, you even half wondered if they would have swallowed the giant-killing to end them all if it meant a new man in charge at The Emirates.

Instead, they were treated to a clinical display of Arsenal finishing as Lincoln finally ran out of steam.

Fans protest against Wenger
(Photo: REUTERS)
Wenger will make a decision by the end of next month on his future
(Photo: AFP)

What a way to go though. Another bumper pay-day and one more taste of the big time bosses Danny and Nicky Cowley crave.

Lincoln’s pedigree in this competition meant Wenger paid them the ultimate compliment by fielding his strongest team.

Although after the aggregate 10-2 humiliation by Bayern Munich he dared not take any chances.

Just as well too, for even with his A-list stars Arsenal hardly laid a glove on the Cowley’s non-league battlers until first half injury time when Theo Walcott, along with Alexis Sanchez the Gunner’s stand-out star, pounced.

Up to then Imps keeper Paul Farman had only one major task – a superb 14th minute save to push a Walcott volley onto the post.

With beefy City striker Matt Rhead causing mayhem in the centre of Arsenal’s defence the Impvasion dared to believe. But they had only one real chance – a Nathan Arnold effort pushed for a corner by flying Petr Cech.

It looked like the non-leaguers would reach half time all square but it all fell apart in the closing moments of the first half.

Wenger observes the game from the touchline
(Photo: Getty Images Europe)

First Farman somehow kept out a curling Mesut Ozil free kick, then seconds later Walcott fired home the opener with the help of Sam Habergham’s deflection after a Kieran Gibbs pass.

It was a heart-breaking moment for City and their dream was well and truly over as two quick goals after the re-start by Olivier Giroud and unlucky defender Luke Waterfall who turned a Gibbs cross into his own net made it 3-0.

With Sanchez in full flow the Chilean made it 4-0 before Aaron Ramsey grabbed the fifth.

Lincoln are out but this was a glorious defeat.

While it might be nearing the end for Wenger, this is just the beginning for Danny and Nicky Cowley.

And for the Arsenal lynch-mob who want Wenger’s head on a spike they’ll will have to wait for another day.

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