Arsenal eased to an unexpectedly comfortable win over Nottingham Forest in their League Cup fixture on Tuesday, with a number of players returning from injury.
Facing the side that sits sixth in the Championship and playing their second game in three days, there were some concerns that Arsenal’s backup side would have trouble on the night.
In addition to young players and second-choice options getting chances, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney also played their first senior games after their injuries. Calum Chambers started out of position as well, as did Emile Smith Rowe and Gabriel Martinelli.
In spite of all that, Arsenal never really had to get out of first gear to win this one. They only faced one shot on target, a tame effort when the Gunners were already ahead, and otherwise, the hosts completely dominated the match.
Let’s have a look at our player ratings for the fixture.
- Emi Martinez 7 – Martinez really had nothing to do. He came off his line and swept up a long ball at one stage, he completed 10 of his 12 passes and made that one save which was more of a catch. That was it.
- Calum Chambers 9 – Fantastic performance at both ends in two positions that aren’t his best – right-back until Bellerin came on, then left-back. He provided three assists, made four tackles and five interceptions, more than any other Arsenal player in each case.
- Shkodran Mustafi 7.5 – Even though Chambers got three assists, Mustafi probably played the pass of the match with a reverse ball into Bellerin in the build-up to the third. As with the rest of the defence, he had an easy job on the night at the back, but he did it well.
- Rob Holding 8 – Capped off his comeback in style with a nice headed goal to make it 2-0. The centre-back hit the post with a header from a corner in his last match for the u23s, so let’s hope he’s making a habit of it. Solid defensively but wasn’t tested.
- Kieran Tierney 8.5 – Arsenal’s new signing made his debut in exciting fashion, skipping past opponents to put dangerous balls into the box time after time. He had a 100% dribble completion rate on the night and attempted eight crosses, winning five of his seven duels and making it through 77 minutes. All positive.
- Joe Willock 8.5 – Bar one missed header he should’ve scored, Willock was fantastic. Only Chambers won more tackles and interceptions, and his run onto Bellerin’s cutback was vintage Willock. That’s two goals in a week now, carrying his strong academy goalscoring form into the first team.
- Lucas Torreira 6.5 – Off the ball, Torreira was very good, but he passed straight to an opponent on three or four occasions when in front of his own back four. A better team would have punished Arsenal for that. He appeared to be sulking too, refusing to join in with the goal celebrations even when Holding scored on his injury comeback.
- Mesut Özil 8 – Also sulked when subbed off, but he looked very good before that. The German created six chances, the most of anyone on the pitch, and his cross (80%), dribble (75%) and ground duel win (80%) rates were also excellent.
- Emile Smith Rowe 7 – Started nicely, particularly in terms of his energy winning the ball back. Unfortunately, he then got injured in a clash of heads, almost scoring in the process. Unai Emery has suggested it’s nothing serious, but he had to come off.
- Reiss Nelson 8.5 – After some criticism post-Watford, finally got himself going for Arsenal in terms of goals, scoring once, assisting once and hitting the post from a free-kick. Only Özil created more chances, and 96% pass accuracy as a winger isn’t bad either.
- Gabriel Martinelli 8.5 – With Aubameyang rested and John-Jules injured, Martinelli had to step up in the centre-forward position. The winger scored a great header and a nice (if deflected) long shot to top a fine performance. His pressing was excellent again.
- Bukayo Saka 7.5 – For the third match in a row, Saka created a ‘big chance’ with a cross. For the third match in a row, the player he crossed to missed the target. The goals will come if he keeps putting it on a plate though. Could have done better from Özil’s clever free-kick, otherwise another promising showing.
- Dani Ceballos 7 – Did well to facilitate the play of his teammates, though the fact that the score went from 1-0 to 5-0 in his 20 minutes on the pitch flatters him a bit, as he wasn’t really involved in the goals.
- Hector Bellerin 8 – It took less than a minute for Bellerin to show Arsenal what they’ve been missing. The Spaniard had only been on the pitch for a few seconds when he received the ball in behind the Forest defence and squared for Willock to score. Strong cameo.