Nottingham Forest 0 – 4 Arsenal
Well that was nice, wasn’t it. Four goals away from home for the second string XI and decent performances all round. What a difference to twelve months ago at Hillsborough. Forest were more compliant, it must be said, but Arsenal were far better.
Does it underline the gap between the top of the Premier League and the Championship? Whilst not a definitive answer, it certainly adds to the argument that the ‘thems’ are losing ground on us. Quite simply, Arsenal were far too good for Nottingham Forest, a side clinging on the vestiges of the past with the present offering little hope for the future.
Two generations ago they were champions of Europe and those generations took great delight in telling us we would never achieve those heights. Truth hurts.
But not as much as a four-goal home defeat.
Forest rarely troubled the Arsenal goal such was the ascendency we assumed. Granit Xhaka’s opening goal – his second in as many games – threatens to bring back the days when John Jensen strode the Highbury turf. Imploring Xhaka to shoot is more likely to bring a goal; he even went to the Frank Lampard Junior School of Finishing, where he remembered the most important lesson: deflections are your friend.
Once the goal went in, it quickly became a question of how many Arsenal would add. Arsène was rightly pleased with the performance and tempo the XI played with. It was refreshing to see them play without the weight of the world on their shoulders. This was the polar opposite in terms of performance compared to Hillsborough.
Plenty to look at in positive light. I know it’s only the EFL Cup but I thought Holding and Maitland-Niles did well. It was in midfield that the gap in class between the two sides really showed. Xhaka and Elneny dictated the tempo whilst Oxlade-Chamberlain had his best game of the season. Still over-anxious at times but his finish to round off the victory, epitomised everything which is good with his game.
Arsène, for once, wasn’t overstating the case when he summarised last night’s performance:
It was a good team performance played at a very high pace. We played a very quick technical game and we went always forward and tried to score goals. We played the game well out from the back. Overall it’s a performance that deserves great credit and I would like to congratulate the players tonight – it was fantastic.
The most pleasing aspect was Lucas Perez’s first goals for the club. The weight has been lifted from his shoulders, particularly with the second. The first was a well-taken penalty – were you watching Alexis?
The second was a mix of determination and pace. A wilier defender than Mancienne might have fallen to the turf and won a free kick but Perez kept going and finished well, under pressure. Even a little narkiness in the minor kerfuffle as he left the turf to celebrate.
Wenger praised the Spaniard’s finish:
The second goal has technical quality and desire, determination and fighting spirit. I liked the second goal for that, I liked as well the goal he made for Oxlade-Chamberlain. I’m very pleased for him.
The interchange of passes and running with Ox was good play, intelligent from the pair.
That Arsène changed the starting XI and selected a bench with about 20 minutes first team experience between them shows how seriously he is taking the Chelsea game on Saturday. It’s refreshing for the ‘gamble’ to pay off and offer the squad another chance in the next round. A statement which pretty much ensures we will draw Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Wenger went on:
We have four days to prepare for [Chelsea], let’s focus on that now.
A tough match but going into the game on the back of two positive results and performances is a lot better than thinking about the fixture than after PSG.