Arsenal’s League Cup side of 2016 won comfortably against Arsenal’s League Cup side of 2010 to progress to the next round of the sponsorless cup.
Facing up against Henri Lansbury and Nicklas Bendtner, a totally changed XI were tasked with playing with players they aren’t used to lining up alongside on a weekly basis, potentially making things a lot harder than they ought to be. It didn’t.
With the Arsenal travelling support reminding the Forest fans that they’d only come to see the Arsenal, Forest started brightly from what I could see on a stream that was straight out of the dial-up era.
It’s 2016 yet football still acts like the internet is a danger to its crowds.
The first real chance of the game fell to Forest with less than 10 on the clock and it was Bendnter who set it up only to watch as his teammate drag his shot wide of the far post with Emi Martinez getting nowhere near it. It was a big warning that amounted to little from Forest as Arsenal grew in confidence.
Akpom, playing through the middle was denied after a good move through the heart of the Forest side saw Reine-Adelaide play Chubs though, only for his first time shot to be saved.
A few minutes later, Bendtner, who had looked lively, was booked for a heavy and late challenge on Granit Xhaka, a terrible scissor that says more about the state of Bendtner than anything else. Full of the Adebayors against his old side, he was in danger of letting his desperation to make a good impression spill over into the realms of total idiocy.
No change there, then.
Another poor challenge, this time by Henri Lansbury on Elneny was ignored by Paul Tierny, refereeing his first ever Arsenal match. Studs up and high, it wasn’t even given as a free-kick, let alone a card.
With around half of the first half gone, Granit Xhaka let fly with another belter to break the deadlock. A slight deflection helped, but it was in the back of the net before the Forest keeper could say ‘standard’ as the midfielder showed you don’t have to listen when Arsenal try to coach the shooting out of you.
Xhaka scores another screamer, this time against Forest pic.twitter.com/UYFAxu6AYv
— Terje (@GoonerTerje) September 20, 2016
After that, every time he touched the ball cries of ‘SHOOOT’ erupted from the Arsenal faithful. And not in the way they usually shout ‘SHOOT’ at the side. Oh no, this was the good way.
A team of relative strangers in the starting XI sense, the Arsenal midfield looked fluid, interchanging passes with the sort of telepathy Wenger coaches into his players, however things got distinctly more ragged as we approached the Forest box, the Ox guilty of giving the ball away for fun at times.
Before the half drew to a close Arsenal came close to doubling their lead through Jeff, and there was still time for Lansbury to cripple Gabriel, leaving the returning defender lying in a heap and escaping any further sanction. Again.
The second half got underway with Lansbury putting in yet another yellow card tackle, again without a card, as he sat on the turf claiming he was injured after cleaning out his third Gooner.
We’d have thought Arsenal and the league cup would summon good memories for the former Arsenal youngster given what he did to Tottenham while wearing the cannon. Not so, it seems.
2-0 came via the penalty spot as Gooners everywhere tried to work out what sort of witchcraft was at play that was giving us so many penalties. We also all hoped Xhaka would step up to take it but it was another new boy, Lucas, who took up the mantle and he made no mistake to open his Arsenal account.
It was Arsenal’s fifth penalty in just seven games this season.
— Connor (@TikiTakaConnor) September 20, 2016
A card finally came for Lansbury after his fifth foul, or, at least his fourth that warranted a yellow.
The third goal was all about Lucas; his speed, his strength, and his determination to get the ball into the back of the net. It was beautiful and ugly and slapped a load of people, who had written him off after just five minutes of football, square in the face with a big, wet fish.
A poor finish then denied Arsenal a fourth after a lovely tippy-tappy move around the static Forest defenders, as did a good save which saw Elneny trying a Xhaka.
With just under 10 remaining and the game safe, Wenger reached for his subs, bringing on Chris Willock and Gedion Zelalem to replace Chuba Akpom and the impressive Jeff Reine-Adeliade.
Another good save denied a the Ox, but Arsenal weren’t for sitting back and defending their lead. They wanted that fourth.
Wenger, however, reached for Krystian Bielik to replace Ainsley Maitland-Niles who had been a surprise starter at right back.
The fourth, in injury time, was a thing of beauty, finished by the Ox, who had generally disappointed on the night. A lovely flick was played back to him as he ran through the Forest defence before slotting low beyond the keeper.
Brilliant team goal finished off by Chamberlain. pic.twitter.com/Avygpy0XQz
— Calum (@CalArsenal) September 20, 2016
It’s hard to feel anything other than extremely positive about both this result and performance. A team of youngsters and players who are not first-team starters (for now) thrown together could have gone horribly wrong as we’ve seen in the past.
Instead, it clicked, and it was nothing but great fun.
Nice job, lads.
Player ratings to come