Unai Emery, as expected, made changes to the side that had frustratingly drawn our last Premier League game. He went with a mixture of youth and players desperately in need of minutes after recovering from long term injury.
That meant starts from Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Kieran Tierney. Completing the backline was ‘man in from the cold,’ Shkodran Mustafi.
Jo Willock and Lucas Torreira were in the engine room, and there was a welcome start further forward for Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who lined up with Reiss Nelson and Dani Ceballos just behind sole striker, Gabriel Martinelli.
Standard Liege would have had high hopes in turning up at The Emirates and making a solid start, perhaps exerting some pressure by holding out for long enough to make the home crowd anxious.
That plan went out of the window after just thirteen minutes.
A smart build up down the left ended with Tierney whipping in a fizzing cross to the near post that a darting Martinelli converted with a brilliant header that left the keeper no chance.
Martinelli seems to show a real talent in the air.
His second goal didn’t involve a header, but showed his instinct in the box by snaffling a loose ball, taking a touch and putting a good finish into the far corner.
This was just two minutes after the first goal – and four goals in two games for the young Brazilian.
Six minutes later – it was three. That made it three goals in eight first half minutes.
This time it was Jo Willock who found the net. The young England man had been really advanced and he took Reiss Nelson’s blocked shot and finding the net with a tidy finish.
Home and dry, surely? Well, as Gooners, we know that is never quite rubberstamped – but we were looking pretty impressive.
There were some standout performers, but the whole team was looking on point.
Half time came and went, and early in the second half, Martinelli twice went close to getting his hat trick, only for one shot go wide and a 25 yard curler drop agonisingly off target.
This kid really was the business.
Twelve minutes in, we had our fourth, and the win was pretty much wrapped up.
Martinelli was once again involved, and he chipped an effort over the keeper. Ceballos was on hand to tap the ball in, and we had four.
Emery opted to rest a few, and Jo Willock came off for Matteo Guendouzi. Then, after a few more chances, we made another change. Reiss Nelson, who was on fire for this game, came off for top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. We also saw Maitland-Niles come off for record buy Nicolas Pepe.
They didn’t have long to make an impact.
The time ticked over and we went close again, but there were to be no more goals.
It was a good result, a good outing for our team and three more points.
What were the outlying positives from this game?
Nelson Knocking On Door
The winger has had to kick his heels a touch to give Nicolas Pepe some game time, but he certainly took his chance here. Time and again he beat his man, time and again he created and linked with his team mates. Nelson is giving his chances everything he has and this performance would have resonated with Emery. Keep doing this and Nelson will have his place locked down.
Martinelli Bursting On Scene
We knew he had talent, but did we think he was ready to make an impact straight away? Normally Latin Americans take plenty of time to acclimatise, and being so young, we figured Martinelli was pencilled in for the future. Not so. He has played two games and bagged four, and made himself a real nuisance. What a talent he is, and he could really boost us when the going gets tough. He deserves his chance.
Perhaps Keep The Faith?
Our first team, or what appears to be Emery’s desired eleven, are struggling in the Premier League. Yet our youngsters are tearing it up in the Carabao cup and Europa League. Of course, different calibre of opposition comes into it, but just look when Emery kept Saka in the team versus Utd – Guendouzi aside he was our best player. So, Nelson, Willock, Holding, even Martinelli out wide or alongside Aubameyang – play the kids. They deserve their shot.
Next game is this Sunday versus a flying Bournemouth side at The Emirates.