Well now wasn’t that a bit of fun to watch last night?
It didn’t matter that it was bucketing it down because for those that made the trip to The Emirates last night they were treated to a goal-fest and some great performances from some of those rotated players.
In fact I’d say that there wasn’t one player on the pitch who didn’t perform well last night. Even Emi Martinez – who had nothing to do other than a bit of catching practice – still looked assured and confident in goal.
It was how a game should be against lesser opposition and despite the fact Villa are a Premier League side, the way we controlled the match was how I’d expect us to play last weekend, rather than what we got served up last Sunday. That was tripe and the weekend before was tripe but last night was lovely stuff. It was like a packet of steak McCoys crisps – delicious until the last morsel.
Emery totally rotated as we’d expect and brought in Martinez, Chambers, Mustafi, Holding and Tierney at the back and from the start we looked comfortable. Forest didn’t have a sniff. Chambers and Tierney closed space out wide but also delivered in the final third too. I haven’t seen who was man of the match but Calum Chambers gets it for me. On that wide right he chalked up two assists and the first was a joy to watch. A volley-cross straight on to Martinelli’s head and the Brazilian-Italian finished with a clever flick into the ‘keepers near post. Great for Chambers, great for Martinelli, great for Arsenal.
Chambers bossed it all night, winning the ball back in defence, providing an attacking threat, he was grand. And on the other side Tierney looked impressive too. He’s got a burst of pace that got him beyond the Forest full back all night and even on 70-odd minutes, he was able to shunt the ball on the outside of a midfielder and beat him for pace. Such an engine room and hopefully that’s a sign of things to come. He has to be a consideration for Old Trafford now, especially given that we have almost a week to recover, with the game on a Monday night.
But so too do so many players. I thought Mustafi didn’t put a foot wrong. I thought Holding was strong and even got himself a returning goal. We need to be realistic that he won’t come in and be the second coming of Cannavaro from day one, instantly plugging any of our holes in our defence in the Premier League, but by Jove did he do enough to get the manager thinking about next week I bet. Especially given that he’s now completed 90 minutes without any issues, it seems.
In midfield Unai picked Torreira and although he played a little bit further than the base on the back four, his inclusion made an obvious improvement, because he was tenacious and helped to turn the ball over on multiple occasions.
With him was Joe Willock, who’s energy and movement meant there was always space, whilst in front of them was a three which included Nelson who did pretty good and got his first goal of the season, Smith-Rowe who was tidy (although it was a shame to see him come off with a head injury at halftime), then floating in between the lines was Mesut Özil. He has never been a ‘blood and thunder’ kind of player but he created opportunities, he popped up in spaces, he showed us that he has something to give. I thought the substitution of him for Ceballos was a little weird given how little time he’s had, but it’s a minor footnote on an impressive evening too.
The goals for Martinelli up top will have done him the world of good too. I’ve spoken to a couple of people who have said that he’s been very impressive at training and the club have been pleasantly surprised with how well he’s settled in. Given that Eddie Nketiah is banging them in at Leeds and we have no back up (or so we thought) for Auba and Laca, these two goals last night are massively important. They’re important because strikers need goals for confidence and managers need to feel like they can trust players. Unai Emery will have gone in to the dressing room at full time knowing that whilst Martinelli isn’t anywhere near the finished article, he has the ability to at least cover in these cup games this side of Christmas at least.
One could caveat the performance by saying that it was a team from a lower division but I’m not doing that today. We’ve picked apart performances all season already so when one like this comes along you just need to enjoy it. And I thoroughly did enjoy it I have to say. From start to finish. It was good football, with plenty of goals, plus we did the basics right from back to front.
A quick shout out for Saka and Bellerin too. The Spaniard came on and almost immediately had an impact, driving the ball across goal for Willock to tap in, whilst the young wide forward once again looked a handful for the half of football he got. Perhaps he’ll feel he was owed one after being subbed at the weekend.
The hope now is that Emery can bottle what this is and replicate it away at Old Trafford next Monday. If we’re going to win there for the first time in 15 years in the league, he’s going to need to, but then again perhaps there are a few players from last night who should be pushing him for a start.
We shall see.