Arsenal beat Leicester City 2-0 on Wednesday to reach the fourth round of the Carabao Cup.
Despite making wholesale changes to the team which sneaked past West Ham on Saturday, Mikel Arteta’s starting lineup was much stronger than many anticipated. His selection supported comments he made earlier this week about Arsenal taking the Carabao Cup seriously.
However, arguably the most notable part about his squad were the absentees. Mesut Özil, Mattéo Guendouzi, and Lucas Torreira – all of whom have been linked with moves away this summer – did not travel to the King Power Stadium.
Brendan Rodgers made eleven changes to a team which beat Burnley on Sunday, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall making his first start for the club, and James Maddison the clear danger man.
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Arsenal had the better chances in what was a weirdly sloppy, yet exciting, first half. Reiss Nelson gave Danny Ward an early test, before Bernd Leno made an excellent stop to deny Kelechi Iheanacho. Referee Peter Bankes waved away an Arsenal penalty claim after Daniel Amartey seemingly bundled Saka to the floor, and only the post denied Maddison’s curling effort.
Christian Fuchs’ scruffy own goal broke the deadlock, and Wes Morgan’s goal-line clearance ensured that Eddie Nketiah did not extend Arsenal’s lead. Leicester turned up the heat in the game’s final minutes, and Ayoze Pérez should have levelled the scores.
Nevertheless, Eddie Nketiah’s predatory goal secured Arsenal’s progression to the next round and ensured Mikel Arteta continues his unbeaten run in cup competitons.
Without further ado, here are the player’s ratings from tonight’s game.
Goalkeeper & Defenders
Bernd Leno (GK) – 6/10 – Although many would have expected new signing Alex Rúnarsson to make his Arsenal debut, starting Leno made a lot of sense considering his recent return from injury and shaky performance against West Ham. Again, the German was unconvincing in possession and in dealing with aerial balls, but no one can deny his elite shot-stopping ability.
Rob Holding (RCB) – 5/10 – Another player who is not entirely comfortable with the ball at his feet, Holding was given a tough challenge by the energetic Leicester trio of Gray, Iheanacho, and Maddison.
David Luiz (CB) – 8/10 (MOTM) – Making his first start of the season after recovering from a neck scare, Luiz was the epitome of class. A perfect warm-up ahead of the tougher test which looms on Monday.
Sead Kolasinac (LCB) – 5.5/10 – With Kieran Tierney’s hip complaint, it came as no surprise that Kolasinac continued as part of the defence. His performance tonight was a little better than his Saturday display, but that’s not saying much.
Wing-Backs & Midfielders
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (RWB) – 4.5/10 – A night to forget for the England international, whose bad habits re-emerged after a run of sharp performances. Maitland-Niles was sloppy in possession and beaten on numerous occasions.
Mohamed Elneny (CM) – 7/10 – As is to be expected, the Egyptian was steady. He consistently provided his teammates with a passing option and was dogged defensively. A very useful depth piece who figures to feature prominently in cup competitions this season.
Joe Willock (CM) – 5.5/10 – Arteta’s trusted super-sub at the end of last season, Willock was mostly a non-factor. The 21-year-old certainly has unique physical qualities but would be much more effective in a midfield three. Continuing as a super-sub is probably best for him in the short-term.
Bukayo Saka (LWB) – 7/10 – Tonight confirmed what we already knew, Bukayo Saka is one of the world’s most promising young footballers.
Nicolas Pépé (RF) – 5/10 – After Willian’s incredible debut, there was pressure on the Pépé to make an impression. Even though it was his industry which forced the own goal, the Ivorian was largely disappointing.
Eddie Nketiah (ST) – 6.5/10 – Scorer of the winning goal against West Ham, Nketiah got his customary goal in the game’s dying embers. Nonetheless, expect him to remain Alexandre Lacazette’s deputy for the time being after struggling to impose himself on proceedings.
Reiss Nelson (LF) – 7/10 – Amidst reports that Arsenal are willing to sanction a loan deal to aid the development of their talented prospect, Nelson was bright throughout. A genuine threat every time he received the ball, his performance tonight may force Arteta to reconsider plans about his immediate future.
There are no ratings for Willian, Dani Ceballos, and Héctor Bellerín, all of whom were introduced to help Arsenal over the line. That being said, Nketiah would not have scored his goal without Bellerín’s excellent run.
With tonight’s victory, Arsenal will travel to either Lincoln City or Liverpool in the next round. If Liverpool win, Arsenal will play at Anfield twice within the space of a week. The two sides shared a ten-goal thriller in the fourth round of last season’s Carabao Cup, with Jürgen Klopp’s men winning on penalties.