Arsenal scrape past Doncaster in uninspiring Emirates display
Arsenal made heavy weather of seeing off Doncaster to reach the fourth round of the Carabao Cup with Theo Walcott scoring the only goal on a night where the returning Jack Wilshere stood out for the Gunners.
Arsene Wenger made 11 changes from the side that drew at Chelsea on Sunday but included the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud in a team that still boasted eight full internationals.
Wilshere was one of them and he starred on his first Arsenal start in 493 days, although it was Walcott who grabbed the vital goal to seal a comfortable but unspectacular 1-0 win.
Doncaster, managed by Darren Ferguson, who was watched on from a record-low Emirates Stadium crowd by his father and Wenger's former adversary Sir Alex Ferguson, created very little but did keep Arsenal at bay for large parts.
Rodney Kongolo did not read the script and forced David Ospina into a low save with less than 30 seconds on the clock as the Sky Bet League One outfit looked to spring a shock.
Walcott has found first-team chances hard to come by since Wenger's change of shape but he almost opened the scoring from Arsenal's first attack only for Ian Lawlor to make a smart stop in the Doncaster goal.
Sanchez tried an audacious chip before Giroud hit the crossbar with a bicycle kick after a perfectly-weighted pass from Wilshere.
Arsenal were rampant and Lawlor did well to push away a cross-cum-shot from Ainsley Maitland-Niles after more smart work from Wilshere and Sanchez.
Former Manchester City youth goalkeeper Lawlor was in for a busy night and was again called into action to push away Sanchez's long-range free-kick with less than 10 minutes elapsed.
The opening goal came after 25 minutes as Sanchez lofted a sumptuous ball over the Doncaster defence which Walcott collected before lofting a finish over Lawlor for his first of the campaign.
The hosts were unsurprisingly dominant but a lack of clear-cut chances left them susceptible to a surprise equaliser and Alfie May almost delivered a minute before the break but could only hit the side netting from a tight angle.
Walcott passed up a glorious chance to double the advantage soon after the restart as the game continued to take place almost completely in the Doncaster half.
Maitland-Niles twice did superbly to outpace May and John Marquis to steal possession as both homed in on Ospina's goal, with Reiss Nelson and Mohamed Elneny coming close at the other end.
Doncaster substitute Liam Mandeville did well to plough through a number of challenges before seeing his effort deflected behind, with Matty Blair's header from the resulting corner hitting the crossbar.
Wilshere's late strike was blocked behind and Alex Iwobi saw an injury-time shot saved as Arsenal had to settle for just the one goal, with Ferguson and Rovers able to take plenty away from a spirited display.