I don’t want to hear about how it was a Championship opponent. Or the 11 changes to their starting lineup. Or the 6 players making their club debut. Arsenal beat the stuffing out of West Bromwich Albion 6-0 today in the Carabao Cup 2nd round. It was fun to watch. Scoring goals is good. Winning is great.
Arsenal did exactly what you’d expect of a (good? top? respectable?) Premier League side today. And exactly what everybody in and around Arsenal needed them to do: they scored in bunches and gave the Baggies nary a sniff. The handful of shots West Brom managed were calmly handled by new man Aaron Ramsdale. And he wasn’t the only standout performer for the Gunners today.
Obviously, hat-trick-hero Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was magnificent. He looks a completely different player through the middle where he has the freedom to pop up in the channels between the defenders and attack the box looking for chances and rebounds. I’ve said it before — sometimes all a scorer needs is to see the ball hit the back of the net. I hope tonight’s performance helps snap Aubameyang out of whatever malaise seemed to be affecting him. He’s so much fun to watch, especially when he’s scoring, smiling, and enjoying himself. It’s infectious.
Bukayo Saka looked back to himself tonight. He was unplayable, zipping past defenders on the ball and off, picking passes, and adding a lovely finish to get himself on the scoresheet. Nicolas Pepe’s movement was fantastic; it contributed to both of Aubameyang’s first two goals, earned one for himself, and nearly bagged him a brace. Martin Ødegaard was tidy. He does the little things so well and rarely puts a foot or a pass wrong. And his creativity and daring were on full display on his one-touch backheel to put Bukayo Saka in for his goal. I’m not sure there is anybody else who attempts, let alone pulls off, a pass like that. Alexandre Lacazette’s first-touch finish for Arsenal’s 6th was a true, strikers goal. An absolute peach of a shot.
I was also quite impressed with Nuno Tavares. There are still raw elements to his game — he could improve his passing accuracy and he’s got a bit of the Nicolas Pepe-like legs moving too fast for his body to keep up. But he’s a player. He has absolutely no fear: he will try to dribble you anywhere on the field and will get stuck in on his tackles without hesitation. And boy is he fast. He covers so much ground on the flank.
There really weren’t any negatives from the match. It was an all-encompassing, complete drubbing. Exactly what you want and expect from most of Arsenal’s first-team against mostly Championship reserves. Onto the next round to face League One AFC Wimbledon at the Emirates (and Manchester City at the weekend).