Arsenal were able to book a place in the fourth round of the EFL Cup instead of after a 5-0 success over Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night. Even though manager Unai Emery made wholesale changes to the squad, the Gunners were impressive from start to finish.
The game witnessed summer signing Kieran Tierney make his debut for the club after recovering sufficiently from a groin injury. The left back was not called into action throughout the evening as Arsenal kept only the second clean sheet in the last seven competitive games. Nottingham Forest may be competing for a play-off position in the Championship, but they do not offer much going forward.
The game received its opening goal after 31 minutes when Gabriel Martinelli was able to head home his first goal for the Gunners. The 18-year-old sent Arsenal fans into nostalgic mood by becoming the second young player to score on his debut since Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in 2011. Arsenal, though, were unable to get the decisive second goal for long periods in the game. However, it finally came in the 71st minute when Rob Holding marked his return to the game after almost 10 months on the sidelines. He converted from a corner to make it 2-0.
Just when it seemed that Arsenal were heading into the fourth round quite comfortably, a late collapse from Nottingham Forest ensured that Arsenal fans went home after witnessing the club’s biggest win of the campaign so far. Joe Willock and Reiss Nelson were able to add to the tally while Martinelli came up with an injury-time goal to make it a resounding victory.
The game could have been tricky since Nottingham Forest were quite threatening as an opposition. The Championship outfit have lost only one game all season and Arsenal were coming on the back of a narrow win over Aston Villa during the weekend. Yet, Emery will be extremely pleased with the way everything has turned out in a positive fashion for the Gunners. Apart from the big win, Emery also has new options at the back with Hector Bellerin and Tierney returning to action.
Things could have easily gone wrong for Emery, as it has done so many times for Arsene Wenger when relying on youngsters in this competition. The option to go all-out with young players was practised by the Frenchman for much of his later years with the club, but it did not prove rewarding in terms of trophies. Yet, Emery will be pleased with the response by his youngsters.
The victory gives Arsenal a major boost ahead of the game with Manchester United on Monday night. This match at Old Trafford could go a long way into ending United’s hopes of a top four finish even in this early part of the campaign. It could also assert Arsenal’s ability to compete for the same. After having performed very poor in recent away games, this match will be a stern test for Arsenal and the team has prepared in the best possible shape with this win.