Everyone loves a League Cup game, especially Arsenal fans, who spent years enjoying the competition because it was an opportunity to see all the sublime youth talent our scouts had hoovered up from around Europe.
Those days of child starting 11s have faded. Tonights Forest 11 looked tasty and extremely strong. Xhaka and Elneny pinning the midfield, Perez starting, the impressive Rob Holding and the returning Gabriel at the back, plus forever reserves Gibbs and Chambo and Jeff.
The game impressed, that’s for sure. I absolutely loved the midfield pairing of Xhaka and Elneny. They had a very good relationship moving the ball forward, opening space for one another, making themselves available for the defence very readily. They also have the ability to move the ball quickly and accurately. Not to mention both having the engine to cover lost ground.
They were a touch shaky at the back, leaving the defence exposed at times, but look, that seems to be a bit of a tactic from Wenger to win the ball back further up the pitch. Just to cement the performance, Xhaka opened the scoring with a monster effort from 35 yards again. I really hope Wenger doesn’t beat that out of him, it’s an advantage to have a player who can strike fear into defenders who traditionally would back off our unambitious shooting efforts.
Jeff, a man of legend for no real reason, had a solid first half. He set Chuba up for a one on one that the Forest keeper did well to palm wide. Niles looked good going forward as our makeshift fullback, but he was woefully short at times getting caught out too far up the pitch.
Perez looked industrious up top and made it count early in the second half when his pass to Chuba led to a penalty. He stepped up cooly and slotted him for his first Arsenal goal. He made it two shortly after when was first to a pass Chuba made after a powerful run, he battled hard, forced a mistake from their fullback, he worked it passed the keeper and scrambled home! A very gritty goal. Using power, pace and determination to score a goal. How novel?
Chamberlain had a pretty pitiful first half making weak decisions that broke up our attacking progress at times. He improved as the game went on, making a very sexy run from outwide to set up Perez late on. He also bagged a late goal with a surging run / one-two with Perez / cool finish. Still be question marks over his ability to channel out those ‘pass it to nobody’ demons, but he’ll be pleased how he turned that around.
Overall, a very pleasing performance. Considering the hodge-podge of a setup, you can only be happy with how cohesive the passing was and how clinically we finished the game off. Perez looked very promising, he has Jamie Vardy like work rate and his finishing looks pretty good (heard that his finishing has been out of this world at training). Xhaka and Elneny made the case for a first team promotion, or at least deeper consideration. Rob Holding was impressive. Even Chuba looked like he had squad credentials.
A great evening, superb to finally have a squad.
Onwards, to a hopefully tired Chelsea next…