Arsenal made hard work of it, but yet another late goal from Olivier Giroud saw them through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. It could, and probably should, have been more difficult, but for errant finishing from Preston in a first half that saw the Championship side dominate the chances.
Arsenal, much like at Bournemouth in midweek, were miles off the pace and went behind in the seventh minute after a dreadful attempt to play offside and a couple of rebounds in the box allowed Callum Robinson to slot home.
The Gunners rode their luck, Preston had a goal disallowed and Wenger's men looked a side without cohesion. However, Aaron Ramsey's first goal of the season got them right back into it early in the second half -- they had 10 shots to Preston's zero in that period -- and a clever flick from Lucas Perez provided Giroud with the chance to score the winner and break Preston hearts.
Once again we saw that Arsenal are a team that will keep going right until the very end and win games when playing below par. This is especially useful, as they've played below the mark a bit too often this season.
Ramsey's goal was a fantastic strike from outside the area after good work from Alex Iwobi, who was generally impressive again. Giroud continued his recent goal-scoring form and Perez showed why he's a player who should be demanding more playing time -- he always looks capable of making a contribution.
The first half. Defensively Arsenal were terrible, particularly the two centre-halves Shkodran Mustafi and Gabriel. They looked like strangers, which to some extent they are. Both of them have played most of their football this season alongside Laurent Koscielny and in his absence they looked far less assured.
Collectively Arsenal started yet another game slowly, and if they continue to do so they'll find that even with all the hard work in the world, they won't have enough to get back into it. It's an issue that Arsene Wenger has to address immediately.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- This was Wenger's 21st FA Cup third-round tie and his 21st win. He shuffled his pack and they had just about enough to win, but it wasn't convincing.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David Ospina, 6 -- Looked a little shaky at times, but was smart and quick off his line on occasion too. Had little chance with the goal.
DF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 6 -- Did fine in only his seventh appearance for the club and playing right-back, which is still a new thing for him.
DF Shkodran Mustafi, 4 -- Is just back from injury, but a couple of weeks with a hamstring shouldn't affect form that badly. Improved in the second period, but was perilously bad in the first.
DF Gabriel, 5 -- Tried to play a silly offside for the Preston goal, which didn't work at all, but was generally more solid than his partner.
DF Nacho Monreal, 6 -- Got forward well and was not threatened often defensively.
MF Granit Xhaka, 6 -- Was careless at times in the first half, which helped swing the momentum towards the home side, but like his midfield partner performed much better in the second period.
MF Aaron Ramsey, 7 -- Is too often the lightning rod for criticism when it should be shared around. Had a good second half after a poor first and scored an excellent goal at a critical time of the match.
MF Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 5 -- Lost possession too easily and too often. This was not his night at all.
MF Alex Iwobi, 6 -- Got an assist for the Ramsey goal, and at 20 his development and potential is genuinely exciting.
MF Lucas Perez, 7 -- Shows his experience in this team. He's clever, his movement is good and he always looks as if he can chip in with a goal and an assist. Came up trumps again.
FW Olivier Giroud, 7 -- Now has four goals in his last four games, and once more showed how capable he is of making a contribution in the final stages of matches.
MF Danny Welbeck, N/R -- Almost scored with a fizzing shot, but after so long out it was just good to see him back playing again.
DF Rob Holding, N/R -- Was an injury time change to eat up some time.
MF Jeff Reine-Adelaide, N/R -- Was brought on like Holding to wile away some of the injury time.