Arsenal ran out comfortable victors in the first stage of the Carabao Cup, with a 5-0 win over Nottingham Forest.
It was only 18 months or so ago that Forest unceremoniously dumped us out of the FA Cup with a 4-2 win, but goals from Rob Holding, Jo Willock, Reiss Nelson and a brace from Gabriel Martinelli dumped Forest out of the cup, saw us progress to the next round and exorcised some demons.
There were plenty of positives to take from this game, but the debut of Kieran Tierney and the return from injury for Rob Holding and Hector Bellerin would be chief among them.
The Scottish international had to wait a while to make his mark in a Gunners jersey but his first game showed exactly why we paid £25m for the left-back, his constant runs down the flank caused Forest untold problems from the first whistle.
Forest, despite the scoreline, kept things pretty tight in the first half, and it was only two pieces of skill from first Chambers, who volleyed a first time cross into the box, and then Martinelli, who bulleted a header into the net under pressure, that broke the deadlock.
Forest weren’t troubling us, and we kept their shot count to a minimum, which was a pleasing sight. With a shuffled backline, this showed that the return of Rob Holding cannot happen soon enough. The same goes for Chambers, as his inclusion into the first eleven must happen sooner rather than later as this is yet another clean sheet for the Englishman.
The second half, the gloves came off for the Gunners.
We were creating plenty but couldn’t quite get over the line, although it was far from a struggle. We had to wait until the 71st minute to get the second though, and what a moment it was for Holding, who nodded a corner home. After ten months out, he certainly deserved the applause.
Bellerin then came on to rapturous applause, in place of the excellent Tierney who also received a round of thanks from the crowd. Minutes later, it was three.
And it was Bellerin who was pivotal. His cross found the onrushing Willock to tap home at the back stick. It was a great ball and showed what we have missed.
Four? Why not, Just seven minutes later, Reiss Nelson got in on the act, thanks to the impressive Chambers, who had switched to the left. Chambers put the ball on a plate for Nelson, who fired home from close range.
With the whistle set to blow, Martinelli topped off the night with the best goal yet.
The Brazilian skipped past a challenge and took aim from 25 yards, blasting the ball into the top corner and leaving the keeper grasping thin air.
Full time, and we had enjoyed ourselves.
What were the positives we could take from the game?
Martinelli Could Factor This Season
With Lacazette injured and Nketiah on loan, it means if we want to rest Aubameyang, then Martinelli is our only option. So it helps that it looks like the youngster has taken to English football pretty quickly. His two goals showed very different assets from the attacker and despite not being an actual number nine, showed he is more than up to the task. Full of running, pressing and with a touch very much fitting for a Brazilian, Martinelli could be a big wildcard for us this season.
Tierney the Real Deal
We waited two months to see him in action, but Tierney showed that the gulf in class between the SPFL and the PL won’t be a factor in his adaptation in playing for us. His fitness levels looked excellent even though this was his first game of the season, and his distribution from his constant runs was nigh-on perfect. He will offer a left hand threat that Bellerin offers on the right.
Depth Thanks To Young Talent
We swapped out an entire team, yet it didn’t show. In came the likes of Smith-Rowe, Nelson, Willock, Holding, Martinez, Martinelli – and we carried on. Saka was a second half sub too, and it is our kids that will allow us to rotate and keep our players fresh – as they can be trusted. They stood up and they can come in when injuries occur. These kids will continue to get better, which is a scary proposition for our rivals.
Bellerin Return At Just The Right Time – But We Can’t Rush Him
Maitland-Niles suspension is coinciding with Bellerin’s return, but the Spaniard only played 13 minutes here. With the United game on the horizon, is Bellerin ready for such a big game? Probably not, but if he is asked, he will jump at the chance. Luckily for us, Chambers showed that he is more than good enough to fill in where needed until Bellerin gets back.
Next up is back to the Premier League, as we take on Man United at Old Trafford on Monday.