One never knows what to expect from a League Cup game. From team selection to performance everything remains in the dark. The only certainty is the opposition and their ever certain chance of causing the upset.
Nottingham Forest was no different. It was a game that provided that uncertainty before kick-off but rather a happy one. Because what we saw was something we have been missing this whole season. We not only saw the return of Holding and Bellerin to the fold but we also produced the kind of scintillating, mesmerizing one touch display of football that left Forest stunned, saw us run out as 5-0 winners and gave Emirates stadium flashbacks of some of the best football played at this ground under a “man who must not be named”.
The line-up was enough to get Arsenal fans all excited. It saw the return of Ozil who apparently is only good enough for Cup games, supposedly the best CB in England and the first start of the next Ashley Cole. Martinelli started his first game of the season as center forward, while Mustafi got another chance to increase his clean sheet record, the best of any Arsenal CB this season.
Creativity, boldness and composure
Ozil was given a free role in the No. 10 position and was in the center of everything that Arsenal created. He acted as the orchestra of the kind that has so often been seen missing in Unai Emery’s team. He created 6 chances, more than any other player and more than whole Forest combined.
Martinelli was the surprise of the night and it was his willingness to receive ball in close areas and ability to beat the man and run at the defense with energy that proved so unsettling for Forest. And it was this willingness that saw Martinelli beat two Forest defenders to head Chambers volley cross into the back of the net and announce himself as the Arsenal player. Later, he also produced a great solo effort that saw his shot take a slight deflection into the back of the net from outside the box. Bright prospect for the future and he is only 18.
Chambers once again looked so much at home at RB both offensively and defensively and even when he later switched to LB, he still looked so much calm and composed and continued to produce the attacking impact. Nelson had his moment as well and the moment Smith looked to be coming back to it’s last early season form, he got taken off on a stretcher in first half. Thankfully, it was only concussion.
The best moment of the game surely came when Holding, after just being handed the captain’s arm band, turned up on the corner to put Arsenal 2 ahead and send the whole Emirates into ecstasy. It was a moment that was well deserved and even though on this night he was hardly ever tested defensively, we all know what impact he can make in our season.
Another exciting moment was the return of our two fullbacks in Tierney and Bellerin. LB showed good pace and willingness to go forward with his direct approach which showed promise. He might not yet be ready to start in PL but he enjoyed a good debut. On the other hand, Bellerin did what he does best with his ability to provide impact in the final third with combination passes and this led to our third goal which Willock finished so perfectly.
This game also showed the impact that Freddie Ljungberg has made on the first team, in the style of football our academy graduates brought on display. It was also a night that left us with question of why we fail to produce this kind of football in the league and whether we will be able to continue this at Old Trafford or resort back to pragmatic, cautious and defensive approach of which we have become so accustomed to.