A routine win is a nice thing but when a team makes wholesale changes and ends up with a routine win, it’s a solid positive to hang your hat on. Certainly, playing a Championship side that has been struggling, as they faced in Reading, means a win is expected, but there’s a good feeling when the reserves are making the most of their few opportunities.
Which they did, on the backs of a fairly dominant performance and two goals from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Reading rarely threatened, but when they did Martinez and his line held the fort for a 2-0 win, moving Arsenal on to the quarterfinals of the EFL Cup. This young side feels like they may have a few more wins in them, too.
The Ox. We say it often - he’s got the tools; we’re waiting on the breakout. With the return to form of Theo Walcott, it appeared that Oxlade-Chamberlain might find himself wallowing in secondary competitions. How that would affect him has been a matter of much talk. But his recent form has been promising. He was head and shoulders above everyone today and with two goals to add to his tally against Ludogorets, perhaps he’s finding a run of form to push him towards more 1st team starts.
Solid Returns. The team welcomed back both Carl Jenkinson and Olivier Giroud to the team. After two years loaned off into the hinterlands (erm, West Ham), Jenkinson’s future was delayed due to injury. It might have forestalled a third year on loan but his return has given us much to enjoy. Carl looked lively and contributed a lot to the attack. It might not be the bellweather we’re looking for to judge his longterm future but for now, it surely means even less Mathieu Debuchy.
Giroud also returned from injury and fared well. He didn’t find his scoring touch but had a few moments, including one lovely header that was expertly saved, that reminded fans of his use. It’s good to have Big Sexy back.
Another Game. I am all for using the EFL Cup as a training ground for younger players. Getting serious competition for the likes of Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Rob Holding and Ainsley Maitland-Niles only yields positives... if you win. The downside is such teams can easily lose and find themselves with no games at all. Longer runs mean more experience. In the end, it might not be a trophy fans want to have, but it is certainly valuable to the future of Arsenal that they go as far as possible. This is Arsenal’s first visit to the QFs since 2012-13. Progress.
Mohamed Elneny. He looks like he can do what Francis Coquelin does and a bit of what Santi Cazorla does. Give him more time, Wenger.
Finishing. For all the praise and dominance, it would have been nicer to see a few more of their chances find the net. A lot of possession was squandered looking for the final product. It rarely came and it’s something to work on.
Lucas hurt. He didn’t have much positives on the night but seeing him limp off after a crunching tackle is less than ideal. Lucas Perez was beginning to show understanding with the team and losing him now would be a blow, even with Giroud back.
Reading’s jerseys. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww...