Arsenal overcame spirited Championship side Brentford, as a brace from Danny Welbeck and a late goal from Alexandre Lacazette ensured progression in the next round of the Carabao Cup.
Manchester United’s exit at the hands of Derby County showed what complacency can do, so it was no surprise that Unai Emery named a decent lineup for this potential banana skin.
German international keeper Bernd Leno took the gloves, and Rob Holding partnered Shkodran Mustafi in defence. Stephane Lichtsteiner and Nacho Monreal completed a strong defensive quartet.
In midfield, Egyptian international Mohamed Elneny buddied up with Matteo Guendouzi in the centre of the pitch,. In attack, we were well armed. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi and talented starlet Emile Smith-Rowe lined up behind England striker Danny Welbeck who was our sole striker.
Our bench was an embarrassment of riches, with the likes of Lacazette, Ramsey, Bellerin and Torreira waiting in the wings, with Sead Kolasinac returning from injury to make the squad for the first time since August.
Brentford were not here to make up the numbers, and their high-flying start to the season showed that, despite their lack of star names, the Bees were a formidable outfit thanks to excellent teamwork.
Despite this, Arsenal got off to a dream start.
Minutes after Bernd Leno nearly miscontrolled a pass and put it into his own net, Mkhitaryan played a short pass from a corner to Guendouzi, and the young Frenchman’s delightful cross was perfectly met by Welbeck, lurking in close range territory to head home and give the Emirates crowd something to cheer for.
Smith-Rowe seemed eager to impress and take his chance, and early on he was running with the ball in some dangerous areas, shooting just wide on the 10th minute.
We could have had a penalty ten minutes later, as Alex Iwobi was hauled down in the area, but surprisingly, home crowd favourite Mike Dean waved appeals away. Brentford were holding their own without really threatening, and we seemed to be happy to keep possession without really stretching Brentford. We had the lead, and the impetus to double it seemed to be low on the minds of our men.
Then, seven minutes before half time, we kicked into gear.
Lichtsteiner passed to Mkhitaryan, the Armenian evaded his man and found Iwobi, who passed to Monreal who had carried on his run behind Iwobi on the left. Nacho took the ball and his cutback was perfectly placed for that man Welbeck again, who finished well to give us a clear space in the scoreline.
Half time came and went, and we were cruising, but Brentford refused to buckle. We should perhaps have put the game out of sight on the 48th minute. Guendouzi lofted a tantalising ball into the area and Mkhitaryan collected the ball by trapping it on his chest. Right area, wrong time though, as his effort was smothered.
Iwobi was next to come close, but the Bees were starting to buzz, and part of the script had to be that former Gunner Nico Yennaris was front and centre of this revitalised opponent, who set up his teammate Canos to fire just wide, with Leno beaten. We were then given another couple of nudges that the Bees were waking up - and they then struck.
A foul on the edge of the box gave Alan Judge the perfect opportunity to drag his team back into contention, and his free kick was out of the reach of Leno. Brentford were back in business.
Canos had a great chance to equalise, and he fired wide from inside the box. The Bees were knocking on the door, after we had dominated proceedings.
Alexandre Lacazette was called into action, replacing youngster Emile Smith-Rowe, and minutes later, we had a great chance to kill the game off again, but Nacho’s effort from a corner was saved by Daniels. Lucas Torreira then made an appearance in place of Mkhitaryan, as our formation changed.
We were limping across the finish line rather than the confident showing we had given for 60 minutes. Ramsey came on for the final minutes, and within a minute the Welshman gave Lacazette a chance and he should have killed this tie off - only to blaze over the bar.
We were in injury time, and Lacazette was the man to finally rubber stamp our name in the hat for the next round, as he raced into the area with the ball, firing low and hard from about 16yards into the corner.
Brentford had fought gamely and perhaps on another day, maybe could have grabbed an equaliser, but for the most part, we had this game under control.
We are still in the League Cup, it’s another win on the bounce and our fringe players got a great runout. Success on all fronts.