It wasn’t the prettiest performance (from either side), but Arsenal downed Leeds 2-0 on the strength of second half goals from Calum Chambers and Eddie Nketiah to advance to the Quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup. Mikel Arteta’s heavily rotated side weren’t perfect, but they did enough to limit Leeds’ chances and ensure that Bernd Leno didn’t have to make any difficult saves. Arsenal won’t find out their opponents for the next round until Saturday, and the match will be played on December 20th.
Whatever the Gunners might have lacked in sharpness, they made up for with hard-work. Arsenal’s youngsters ran themselves ragged today, with Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Gabriel Martinelli, and Eddie Nketiah leading the way with seemingly tireless energy.
Emile Smith Rowe was Arsenal’s best player on the pitch, and I was quite pleased to see him come off once the Gunners went up 2-0. Ben White was also impressive on the evening — his vaunted progressive-dribbling skills were fully on display for the first time in an Arsenal shirt. Unfortunately, he was forced off in the second half with an ankle problem that he appeared to pick up on a first half challenge from Rodrigo. Hopefully that he was evaluated at halftime and allowed to continue indicates that it’s nothing serious.
Calum Chambers replaced Ben White and with his first touch of the ball, scored off a corner to give the Gunners a 1-0 lead. Less than 15 minutes later, Eddie Nketiah capitalized on a poor back header, took the ball over Illan Meslier and scored his 7th goal in 8 Carabao Cup matches. Nketiah nearly missed the finish into a wide open net, but his shinned-shot snuck in at the far post.
Rob Holding was also forced off early with an injury; it looked to be a thigh problem for the centerback. Sambi Lokonga, Nuno Tavares, and Alexandre Lacazette all got second half runouts for the Gunners. The playing time was especially important for Lacazette who had to come off after 60 minutes against Aston Villa because he was gassed. Today, the Frenchman was once again full of energy and hopefully is increasing his fitness. Arsenal seem to be playing better with him in the rotation.
I was concerned when the lineups were published pre-match that Mikel Arteta’s heavy rotation might hurt the Gunners against a stronger-than-expected Leeds side. It’s a tough line to walk between focusing on the Premier League, trying to give yourself a shot at silverware, and managing rest / knocks. Today, Mikel looks to have gotten it right.
Arsenal played well enough to win 2-0. They ran their unbeaten streak to 8 matches and maintained that positive momentum. And a bunch of guys got runouts to boot. Hopefully the injuries aren’t too serious, especially Ben White’s. It would be nice to have him available for Leicester City on Saturday.
UPDATE: Ben White was forced off because he was feeling ill and not due to injury. There is a bug going around the locker room, apparently. Pablo Mari was slated to start today but felt sick this morning.
Both Kieran Tierney and Martin Ødegaard are carrying slight knocks. Neither have been ruled out for Saturday.