Nottingham Forest Result
4-0 was a result that certainly flattered Arsenal.
Whilst we were deserved winners, Nottingham Forest created a few chances in the first half. Enough to worry Arsenal. Enough that Arsene Wenger should not be entirely satisfied with the victory. Another day, had one of their early chances gone in, we could have had a different story, a Sheffield Wednesday story.
But another stunner by Xhaka put us 1-0 up at half time. And the second half we controlled, dominated, wearing down Nottingham Forest. A penalty by Lucas Perez and a wonderful solo goal but the game out of sight.
I only realised it was 4-0 this morning. In the 91st minute my stream died, so I went to bed, missing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s wonderfully crafted 4th goal.
Can much be read into a victory over a side currently 13th in the Championship? Probably not.
Emiliano (or is it Damian?) Martínez did little wrong. But also didn’t have much to do. He is now 24. David Ospina will surely not be round much longer at Petr Cech’s number 2. Did Martinez show enough that he could potentially step up next season? Inconclusive.
The surprise pick at right back was Ainsley Maitland-Niles. He of the angry mum, who was banned from Arsenal’s training ground after an “assault” and caused her son to be exiled at Ipswich by Mick McCarthy. You have to think the lad has extreme talent if Arsene Wenger is willing to stick with him despite the behaviour of his mum.
Maitland-Niles is not a full back. When I have seen him play in our youths, he was a winger, but often used inside. On loan at Ipswich last season he played 1,116 minutes on the right wing, 704 minutes in the centre of the park. He is a big boy, with a good touch, and good passing range. He can also travel with the ball. At just 19, I see his future being in the middle of the park. He played well.
The game gave Gabriel 90 minutes to get his fitness back and 90 minutes in an Arsenal shirt for Rob Holding. It also allowed Kieran Gibbs to get some match time in. Giving these guys a run out is important so that they are ready to be called upon.
Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny have given Wenger something to think about for Chelsea. Both are aggressive, cover the ground and can pass well. Meanwhile, despite his goal, Oxlade-Chamberlain showed that he is not good enough for Arsenal’s level. The same errors of trying to take on one too many, perhaps Championship opponents is his level?
Chuba Akpom and Jeff Reine-Adelaide looked good in parts. One too many pirouette for my liking. Both could probably do with a loan move in January to a Premier League side to prove that they have what it takes to be part of Arsenal’s 1st team match day squad on a regular basis in 2017/18.
As for Lucas Perez. A well hit penalty followed by the type of goal which showed strength, balance and composure.
I think it is important not to read too much into his performance as it was just Nottingham Forest. I have seen people label him the Spanish Jamie Vardy and better than Olivier Giroud. This is a little bit too much too soon.
Vardy hit 24 league goals last season, Giroud has 82 goals in 191 games for Arsenal. Two goals against a mid-table Championship side is not enough to be compared to these two.
Saying that, it was a good outing for Perez. He looked sharp, quick and two footed. In the short term (with Giroud back) I can see him playing wide of Giroud on the right. I expect us to start again with Alexis Sanchez up top against Chelsea, but Perez, like Xhaka and Elneny, would have given something for Wenger to think about.
This time last week I was in Paris, sleeping off 24 hours of beer. Up to that point I had not missed a single game this season, home away or in Europe. I have now missed the last two games, both away victories, with Arsenal scoring 8. I am back for Chelsea. Sorry lads.
Chelsea Team News
Whilst writing the brief summary of the Nottingham Forest performance, it got me think about what side we will se against Chelsea this Saturday.
Petr Cech will start in goal. But there are plenty of positions up for grabs.
In defence, Hector Bellerin and Laurent Koscielny are shoe-ins. But will Wenger be tempted to return to Gabriel? Or has Shkodran Mustafi already shown enough that he is Koscileny’s undisputed partner in life?
Nacho Monreal has underperformed this season. Looked off the pace. Did Gibbs do enough against Nottingham Forest to force his way in? Unlikely.
The likelihood is Wenger will start with the same back 5 as he did against Hull. Meaning the above 71 words are pretty pointless. Filler. To get the word count of the article up.
The centre midfield is a more interesting debate.
Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla have looked good this season, complimenting each other behind Mesut Ozil. But Granit Xhaka is our best central midfielder. And Elneny performed solidly alongside him last night.
Does Wenger go with the tried and tested Coq/Caz partnership? Pr does he drop one for Xhaka, a risk in such a big game.
I actually think he might play the 3 of them. A central midfield with Coquelin and Xhaka deep lying with Cazorla just ahead. This will push Mesut Ozil out wide on one side with Alex Iwobi the other.
Playing Xhaka and Coquelin together will give the team a lot of solidity in the middle of the park. With Cazorla just ahead of him, we then have a tight midfield 3 that should be hard to penetrate, but still has creativity.
Mesut Ozil on the right is then giving a free role. It might damage us defensively as he will not track back as much, but it is the way you accommodate him. With the extra power in the middle of the park, his defensive frailties can be covered.
Likewise on the left, Alex Iwobi is not the best defensively. You are basically saying to Iwobi, Ozil and Sanchez (who will surely start up front): “You 3 attack, the rest will defend”. With Cazorla also given the time to get forward.
Likely line up:
Bellerin Mustafi Koscielny Monreal
Ozil Cazorla Iwobi