Lucas Perez opened his Gunners account last night, scoring twice as a young Arsenal side romped to a 4-0 win over Nottingham Forest in the EFL Cup.
Lucas Perez was the meat in the sandwich in the 4-0 win against Nottingham Forest last night, scoring his first two Arsenal goals in between a Granit Xhaka thunderbolt (fast becoming his trademark) and a lovely Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain goal.
He netted his first from the penalty spot after Chuba Akpom was fouled in the area, calmly placing it above the dive of Forest keeper Vladimir Stojkovic. His second, though, was borne of pace, composure, and sheer determination.
With the ball played down the line by the effervescent Akpom, Lucas ran onto it, cut inside the defender, and rounded the keeper before slotting home. It is a sight Gunners fans will hope to see on an increasingly regular basis.
The Spaniard actually had a difficult first half, not seeing much of the ball and drifting out wide (as he did to little effect against Southampton), leaving Arsenal bereft of a presence in the box. But after half-time, something seemed to click. He stayed more central, and was immediately more influential. It was his through ball to Akpom that led to the penalty, and he linked up well with Oxlade-Chamberlain to set up the fourth as well.
Arsenal's other charges performed admirably as well. Emiliano Martinez looked dependable when called upon, while Kieran Gibbs (handed the captain's armband for the night) was solid, proving himself an able deputy and viable alternative to Nacho Monreal. Despite one shaky moment that led to a scuffed Pajtim Kasami chance, birthday boy Rob Holding (turning 21) and Gabriel Paulista proved a dependable pairing at centre-back.
19-year-old Ainsley Maitland-Niles, whose career to this point has been as a wide midfielder, was curiously pressed into playing right-back. As you'd expect, he excelled going forward, but occasionally left spaces in behind him. He worked hard though, and impressed considering he was playing out of position.
In the heart of midfield, Mohamed Elneny was solid and displayed a good range of passing, but it was Xhaka alongside him who stole the show. He opened the scoring from 25 yards, making it two goals in two games - and two shots - for the Swiss, who is beginning to put serious pressure on Arsene Wenger to start him regularly.
Behind Lucas, Jeff Reine-Adeleide (the youngest player on the pitch at 18) showed glimpses of his obvious natural talent, while Akpom sparkled and was heavily involved. A striker by trade, he came in regularly off the left flank to provide support for Lucas in central areas - something a certain Alexis Sanchez is fond of doing.
And finally, Oxlade-Chamberlain. The young midfielder obviously possesses bundles of quality - as his goal demonstrated. His movement off the ball and the dummy through to Lucas Perez in the build-up were exquisite. However, he actually had quite a frustrating night. Many of his passes went astray, and things just seemed a little off for him. Hopefully, he can push through and replicate the quality he displayed for the goal on a regular basis.
All in all though, a thoroughly pleasing night for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger. A convincing win, goals for the new man, and valuable experience for the next generation. He couldn't have asked for more.
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