Forest Review: Young XI Fires On All Cylinders

Arsenal 5 – 0 Nottingham Forest

It’s been a good week for the second string team; three without reply in Frankfurt followed by five last night. Have any of them given Unai Emery pause for thought? They certainly should have.

On top of the promise of youth, came the returns of Hector Bellerin and Rob Holding, as well as the long-awaited debut of Kieran Tierney. Holding, wearing the captain’s armband, heading home the second from Ozil’s corner.

The German found himself substituted on 71 minutes, proving that Arsene isn’t the only man who favours certain times of a game for making a change. 71 at Watford, 71 last night; a magical formula we’re all missing or something. Or is it Unai nodding to the past, of happier times gone by?

Little wonder Ozil looked peeved as he left the pitch.

That is a sideshow, a distraction from the main action, with plenty of twists and turns yet to come. Twists and turns are something the Forest defence after last night; they were run ragged.

We know how they feel; Watford – bloody Watford – did the same to us for 45 minutes. Our passing and movement were excellent and there wasn’t a bad performance among them. Yes, I know Mustafi played.

One centre-back who took his chance was Calum Chambers, even if he played everywhere but centre-back. An outstanding cross for Martinelli’s opening header gave Reiss Nelson’s exquisite pass the goal it deserved.

The young Brazitalian was brave in the same way Emile Smith Rowe later found painful. Concussion protocols in action, the unfortunate Smith Rowe departed on a stretcher. Emery said he didn’t think it was serious which is good news.

Martinelli added a second to bookend the evening with a wickedly deflected shot. As first starts go, this was one to remember.

Right Said Fred

On the day the Evening Standard eulogised Freddie Ljungberg, the Swede saw the youngsters deliver and was heavily involved from the touchline. Unai spoke afterwards about the freedom he gives his staff:

Yes, each assistant coach behind me, they have also their work and we are together for speaking with the players and also when we are in the dressing room, we are speaking together for all the situations individually and after we share some moments on the game to speak with the players individually, with the young players and with all players.

But for example, he knows perfectly the Arsenal spirit, also he knows the young players and he helps us every day in the training in the matches.

And before [his coaching career], he knew the characteristics for the Premier League. I am very happy with him.

Freddie Knows

The bounding runs from the young players showed a freedom which is refreshing to see. Joe Willock is thriving with the responsibility he is given while Bukayo Saka once again lived up to the expectations placed on his shoulders.

To respond to a flatter Sunday outing this quickly is a good sign. You learn more about a player when things go wrong from weeks when everything falls into place.

The stars of the show, however, were Tierney and Bellerin. Both played well for their share of the 90 minutes with Tierney giving a nice variety of supporting runs and sharp passes for attacks to feed off. A gentle introduction to the red and white; his first Premier League appearance will probably be tougher.

Bellerin likewise. Emery noted the quacks will kibosh hopes of the full-back returning against United but to the untrained eye, he looked ready and raring to go.

Hell’s Bells

Alert as well; when his shot was blocked, Bellerin was swiftly onto Mustafi’s pass in the area and delivered the perfect ball for Willock to score.

It was left to Reiss Nelson to stake his claim for a first-team place. Pre-season, the expectations were high for the youngster but it’s been a plateau for him since starting at Newcastle. Saka is now the name on everyone’s lips but scoring did Nelson no harm in pressing his claim for a place in the XI.

There’s plenty to be positive about from this game. Emery thinks this is a competition in which we can do well, that the youngsters’ performances meant “we can take some different positive issues for thinking that it is one way forward for us.”

Transfer that to the Premier League? I’m not so sure. Later, he mentioned that “we need to improve a lot of things and tonight I think we done a step in the right direction.”

Given Sunday’s first-half, Emery is cautious – maybe that’s the overall problem – about getting our hopes up.

We need to improve for the next matches, for example against Manchester United.

It will be very difficult and very tough so we need to achieve the best performance, but with the work tonight of some of our players, they are ready to play more difficult matches.

We need to build a competitive team with a strong mentality at home and away. We can improve and I am very positive we’re going to do that.

Tonight and on Sunday we showed a good character, a good attitude and a good spirit.

Baby Steps, Unai.

Given the mood a week ago, it’s been three steps in the right direction since Watford. Optimism about taking points next Monday. We shall see whether that evaporates the nearer kick-off gets.

’til Tomorrow.

27 thoughts on “Forest Review: Young XI Fires On All Cylinders

  1. Adam Singh says:

    Great performance. Would love to see a back four of Bellerin, Chambers, Holding and Tierney on Monday. I doubt it though. A good old fashioned British back 4 (Bel sounds north London to me).

    Also I now wonder is Ozil third choice behind Ceballos and Willock for the n10 / most advanced midfielder role?

    I

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  2. Michael says:

    It was good to watch the game without seeing it from behind the sofa. A complete performance, everyone played their part and would be churlish to pick out any faults.

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  3. JersiBennyman says:

    Adam Singh,

    I believe Ozil did play in a more advanced position than both in the game, but then who understands Unai….. Strong showing from the young guns

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  4. victor Fenech says:

    Adam Singh,

    If Ozil is decent and has any pride in him, he should understand that his services are no longer required.

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  5. C says:

    Good stuff Yogi.

    Torriera must start next to either Willock or Guendouzi sitting infront of our back 4. Ceballos or Ozil in the #10 is the way forward and it was clear last night how balanced it was. You won’t see much of or mention Torriera’s name much in the match and that is exactly what you want from your DM, just go about their business and allow everybody else around him to get the glory.

    Brilliant to see Tierney and Bellerin up and down the flanks. Tierney looked ready to battle Sead for the LB but was full of energy and running.

    Wouldn’t mind seeing Gabriel get some match time on the flanks with Lacazette out. Would give us another goal threat but also somebody with electric pace, good skill and is a willing worker

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  6. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    As usual the merry bunch of regulars at ACLF, eulogise with their Rose tinted spectacles on. Yes it was a good performance, to a second string Forrest eleven! Let’s not get carried away. Monday will be a completely different kettle of fish, should any of those that played last night start. I was mightily happy to see Holding, Tierney and Bellerin play. I was also impressed with Chambers performance and if he doesn’t start at RB on Monday, something is definitely up with U.E.’s team selection.

    I’ll take a draw. But I’m expecting Manure to turn up because they were that bad at West Ham. Also we don’t travel very well. So I’m sure they’ll be brain farts aplenty come Monday night. Let’s hope U.E. gives some of the youngster’s a chance. I wouldn’t want to risk Holding, Bellerin or Tierney in this game. Let them get more minutes before chucking them in to a game like this in my opinion. I’d rather they had a run in the team, then risk them to injury.

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  7. jonnygunner says:

    HenryNorrisDialSquare:
    As usual the merry bunch of regulars at ACLF, eulogise with their Rose tinted spectacles on. Yes it was a good performance, to a second string Forrest eleven! Let’s not get carried away. Monday will be a completely different kettle of fish, should any of those that played last night start.I was mightily happy to see Holding, Tierney and Bellerin play.I was also impressed with Chambers performance and if he doesn’t start at RB on Monday, something is definitely up with U.E.’s team selection.

    I’ll take a draw. But I’m expecting Manure to turn up because they were that bad at West Ham. Also we don’t travel very well. So I’m sure they’ll be brain farts aplenty come Monday night. Let’s hope U.E. gives some of the youngster’s a chance. I wouldn’t want to risk Holding, Bellerin or Tierney in this game. Let them get more minutes before chucking them in to a game like this in my opinion. I’d rather they had a run in the team, then risk them to injury.

    Maybe the regular bunch are just happy that the team we put out beat the team put in front of them.Thats what supporters do.

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  8. C says:

    jonnygunner,

    Totally agree. I mean how many times in the past have we seen whole-sale changes to the XI and the players look like they just met each other or we go all Spuds vs Colchester?

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  9. Bill says:

    Great review Yogi

    That game was reminiscent of the Carling Cup games during the project youth era. A lot of fun to watch and really generates a lot of hype for the younger players. Hopefully this group of youth end up having more positive impact then those from the Carling Cup era. The best thing was seeing Holding, Bellerin and Tierney all get some minutes. We are all desperate to see our team defense improve, however, its not easy coming back from a 10-12 month injury lay and I am certainly not expecting miracles but hopefully those 3 will help.

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  10. Bill says:

    Yogi

    Reiss Nelson took the corner that Rob Holding headed in. Probably just coincidence but we scored 1 goal in the 71 minutes that Ozil played and 4 goals in the 20 minutes after he was subbed off. I am not suggesting that Ozil was reason we were not scoring as much in the first 71 minutes but I am suggesting that he no longer brings that special panache to the pitch that no one else can bring. The only thing he brings that no one else does is his reputation. A few years ago you always thought something positive would happen whenever he had the ball at his feet but now the opposite is true. We certainly don’t look like a more dangerous or a better team when he is playing. Mesut has always been a defensive liability and he certainly does not fit well in a team that hopes to press the opponent and if he no longer makes the team a more dangerous attacking team then what possible reason can there be for Emery to use him?

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  11. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    jonnygunner,

    If we supported Brentford or QPR that would be understandable. We’ve won league titles, cup competitions and were once a force to be reckoned with. I’m as pleased as you are with the win yesterday and more importantly the way we won the game. But I also see the bigger picture and look at the level of the opponent in front of us. We should be spanking a second string Forrest eleven 5-0 and we did. So great we did what it says on the tin. Now to transpose that win into Monday will be the real trick! To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded losing in the Carabo cup if it means winning at Old Trafford.

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  12. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Bill:
    Yogi

    Reiss Nelson took the corner that Rob Holding headed in. Probably just coincidence but we scored 1 goal in the 71 minutes that Ozil played and 4 goals in the 20 minutes after he was subbed off. I am not suggesting that Ozil was reason we were not scoring as much in the first 71 minutes but I am suggesting that he no longer brings that special panache to the pitch that no one else can bring. The only thing he brings that no one else does is his reputation. A few years ago you always thought something positive would happen whenever he had the ball at his feet but now the opposite is true. We certainly don’t look like a more dangerous or a better team when he is playing. Mesut has always been a defensive liability and he certainly does not fit well in a team that hopes to press the opponent and if he no longer makes the team a more dangerous attacking team then what possible reason can there be for Emery to use him?

    I’m in agreement Bill on all front’s. Excellent review as always YW.

    Ozil actually slows down our play in the middle of the park, because he just needs more time on the ball, then what he used to. And this was a game, if he did still have the ability to impose himself on a game, that he should have truly shone. Because Forrest were not pressing or harassing our midfield at all. He had all the time in the world and still managed to lose the ball on a couple of occasions. I think project Ozil is over. Come the summer he’ll be looking for a new club. Now just to get rid of Xhaka and we might start getting somewhere. I don’t think Sideshow Bob is our biggest problem. I think paired with Holding they’d make a good partnership. It’s Sokratis who is the liability. Overrated in my opinion and bang average. If we go back four, I’d like to see Bellerin, Holding, Sideshow Bob and Tierney. If we go back three then, Chambers, Holding, Sideshow Bob. I think Chamber’s merits a run in the team at DM or box to box. He certainly should be starting ahead of Xhaka.

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  13. HenryNorrisDialSquare says:

    Couldn’t care less about the Spuds going out of the Carabo Cup last night. They don’t feature in my food chain. I’d rather they were in as many competitions as possible so they can’t put a run of games together in the league. They’re as bad as we are after cup exertions. So now they’ve got one less fixture to worry about. Remember they are the competition in terms of top four lads. They pipped us to it last season. Also if you watched the Chelsea v Liverpool game, you’ll have noticed that Chelsea won’t be missing out on top four with that first eleven either. I felt if that game had another 20 mins the equaliser was coming.

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  14. Opus says:

    Did you guys hear that? We’re visiting Liverpool in the next round of the Carabao cup.
    Pleasing performance from the lads yesterday, well deserved victory. Ozil had a fair game but he’s expected to use theses chances to prove himself for selection.
    Our new left back had me smiling each time he had the ball, quick going forward with good crosses…it will be interesting to see what Auba & Laca will do with those headers and tap ins infront of goal. I’m happy we have prospects in attack and midfield, good options I’d say.

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  15. Blue Yonder says:

    All eyes will certainly be on Emery for Monday’s lineup. If he reverts to Xhaka and Luiz/Sokratis then he hasn’t learned anything. Those three have had every chance to succeed but in vain. Yes, Luiz has just had a few games with Arsenal but we expected he would fit in a lot more successfully than he has.
    Chambers has to start (and for the same reasons.)

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  16. Papa Bear says:

    Great to to see the new signing Tierney and the return of Holding & Bellerin. Neither Xhaka, Guendouzi or Willock can defend to screen the back four, so the problem will remain until we buy a quality defensive midfielder and Center Back in the mould of Fabinho and Van Dijk. As bad as our defence have been, the problem runs deeper. Our issues begin as a team, our structure and setup. We are ridiculously susceptible to counter attacks & this is because players are venturing forward & nobody seems delegated to cover the space left behind. You see robertson and alexander-arnold attack & if it breaks down, Henderson, Wijnaldum, and Fabinho are covering their backs automatically. Also, Emery is doing a Kante to Torreira for not playing him in his best position, the base of midfield, screening the defence. Not only does he excel in winning tackles there, but his turnover of the ball is quick & he gets us on the attack again instantly, whereas Xhaka the donkey can’t tackle & takes an eternity on the ball.

    I think Luiz would be better deployed at DM position, although that means our double pivot of Luiz and young Guen will remind us with the afro hair time of the 70’s and the live match commentators would be difficult to recognize which’s who between those two.

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