Oh what an evening it turned out to be for Arsenal fans who saw a young Gunners side dispatch Nottingham Forest 5-0 at the Emirates.
There were so many highs that one didn’t know which to put at the top of the list. It could have been the return of Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and a start for Kieran Tierney. Alternatively, it could have been the brilliant display by new boy Gabriel Martinelli, who is looking like a bargain at £7m from Brazilian side Ituano.
It may have been the opportunity to watch the fearless whirlwind, Bukayo Saka, who conjures up new levels of excitement when he gets the ball.
Some might have celebrated the fact that Arsenal managed a clean sheet against Nottingham Forest, which doesn’t happen often, and a relatively easy win with a collection of eye catching goals.
Or it might have been the news filtering through that their North London rivals Spurs were knocked out of the EFL cup by Colchester and that Stoke were bumped out the exit door by Crawley. It was like Santa had put in an early shift and wasn’t counting the pennies.
It was an evening of sparkle, an acknowledgement of youth and an advert for the years of good work at the Arsenal academy that has given the Gunners a treasure chest of riches. It’s a mouthwatering array of talent that could take Arsenal back to the pinnacle of domestic football within a few years.
Given the fact that its Manchester United that we are up next, it was only expected that Emery would be making wholesale changes to the team that lined up against Aston Villa on Sunday. Matches against Manchester United traditionally had a lot at sake, now not much except the occasional bragging rights and the much needed three points for both the sides. Arsenal’s odds across these listings average to roughly 2/1, which surely has more to do with playing away from London than anything else.
Arsenal performed well against Nottingham Forest but it was only 1-0 at half time, courtesy of Martinelli’s 31st minute goal which was the result of Reiss Nelson picking out Callum Chambers, who tried a looping volley with Martinelli getting his head on the end of it.
Chambers would be credited with a further two assists and its time, in this form, that he played some part in the team regularly. Aside from that, Kieran Tierney impressed in his first start and oozed genuine quality on the left which will steady Arsenal fans’ nerves this season.
Nelson and Willock had opportunities, but it was Rob Holding who turned the screws on Nottingham Forest in the 71st minute with a well aimed downward header from a Nelson corner.
6 minutes later, Willock made sure of the win with a close rage tap in provided by Hector Bellerin. Nelson finally got the goal he deserved (84) after being set up by Callum Chambers and Arsenal assumed full control.
There was just time for Martinelli’s second, which was as close to the whistle as you could possibly get without a ‘phweep’, but it was one that got almost every Arsenal fan out of their seat. He went on a run before hitting a long range curler into the Forest net. It made a statement, announced his arrival and was proof of this young man’s talent and confidence.
The impressive thing about Arsenal against Nottingham Forest was the pace, appetite and energy of the side peppered with young and new faces.
One older face didn’t look to impress on the night and that belonged to Mesut Ozil, who was replaced by Dani Ceballos (71), his head was down as he made his way off the field and he looked like a man who had just found out his accountant was on the take.
The sad part of the evening was the withdrawal of Emile Rowe Smith (45) who had just come back to fitness only to suffer suspected concussion.
They say you can’t win anything with kids, it’s a tired old saying that is begging to be changed. Who knows, If these youngsters continue to surprise and entertain they could actually go all the way.
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