Arsenal cruised to a comfortable 4-0 victory at Nottingham Forest, led by Lucas Perez’s second-half brace and a second stunning long-distance goal by Granit Xhaka in as many matches for the newly-signed Swiss international.
Arsene Wenger named Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny as his starting central midfield pairing, leaving little doubt as to whom he’ll name this Saturday when Chelsea visit, and their ability to distribute into the attack in the face of a constant Forest high press, in front of the center backs Gabriel and Rob Holding, was a pleasant change of pace from the current preferred first team midfield.
Forest controlled the pace and play early on, with former Arsenal players Nicklas Bendtner and Henri Lansbury providing the two strongest, perhaps unsportsmanlike challenges of the beginning of the match; the former earning a yellow card for his efforts, and the latter continuing the match committing several other nefarious, reckless tackles before going into the book in the 67th minute.
It was Xhaka – who else – who provided the early lead for the Gunners, with another long-distance missile from 35 yards out slightly deflecting past the keeper. His efforts will more than likely be rewarded with yet another bench appearance this weekend, but he’s slowly showing his unique and devastating ability to be a constant threat on goal from distances not seen at the club in years.
Right before the halftime whistle Arsenal nearly doubled up following an effective counter led by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain that led to a Jeff Reine-Adelaide shot that went just wide of the left post.
Arsenal deadline day signing Lucas Perez slotted home a penalty in the 60th minute, and eleven minutes later the former Deportivo man scored quite the Jamie Vardy-esque goal following a well-placed pass into space behind Forest’s back line from Chuba Akpom. It was Vardy that many compared Lucas to when he moved to Arsenal, and the comparison comes to mind when seeing his effort and ability to generate a goal out of seemingly nothing.
In the waning minutes of extra time, Oxlade-Chamberlain made it four for Arsenal, the cherry on top of the sundae. A dominant performance for the Gunners, even if they stuttered out of the gates, and Arsenal can now feel just a little more confident heading into this weekend’s tasty affair.