Meh. That about sums up my feelings on an uninspiring 1-0 win from Arsenal. You’d think that with that kind of scoreline, the Doncaster keeper was magnificent. Apart from forcing a fantastic 1-on-1 save on Theo Walcott, Arsenal did not test him as much as they should have. Also not great — Doncaster had the chances to take the match to extra time, they just couldn’t convert.
The Gunners fielded a youth-filled team that saw Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Reiss Nelson get the start, Josh Dasilva play the entire second half, and Joe Willock come on late for a run-out. The kids acquitted themselves nicely. Maitland-Niles played particularly well and demonstrated his blazing pace on two recovery runs, once bailing out Nelson and once off his own giveaway. AMN’s pace is truly remarkable - Héctor Bellerín may not be the fastest player in the side anymore.
Arsenal looked like they might run away with it in the first half, generating tons of chances but only managing to put one behind the Doncaster keeper. The goal was exquisite – a lovely lofted ball from Alexis Sánchez to Theo Walcott who received it perfectly in stride and finished nicely with his second touch.
The second half was a different story. Arsenal looked lethargic and disinterested, and Doncaster looked the better side. The closing minutes of the match were nerve-wracking for the Gunners – a Doncaster header from a corner found the crossbar and dangerous balls into the box were scuffed wide. With a bit more time, Doncaster might have knicked a goal.
Olivier Giroud was involved and lively all match. The Frenchman found the crossbar in the first half with a flying scissor kick that would have been Arsenal’s goal of the season had it come off. He had a bicycle attempt go wide in the second. He also had two penalty shouts not given.
Alexis is slowly rounding into form. He looked better than he did in the Köln match but still overcooked a few passes. It was good to see Jack Wilshere and Callum Chambers (who came off at half) back on the pitch. Both gave solid performances and look just about ready for first-team action.
A win is a win. Arsenal continue on in the Carabao Cup, and more importantly, have another match for younger players to develop, substitutes to get playing time, and players to find their form after injury/layoff.
UPDATE: the 4th round draw took place shortly after the match. Arsenal will face Championship side Norwich City at the Emirates on either October 24th or 25th.