The young, the new and the repaired

Arsenal 5-0 Nottingham Forest

I meant to post this earlier today but there were some technical gremlins… not that anyone will notice as it’s been so long!

It was a rare foray into the League Cup for me. But it ended up being rather more enjoyable than I’d anticipated, in part thanks to five good goals, in part because of Arsenal’s raft of young players and prodigal returning defenders, and in part due to the sweet miracle of a clean sheet.

Oh, and in part thanks to tickets in the east upper that cost just £10 for my kids and £20 for me. On the odd occasion I sit up in the gods, it always reminds me how much more of a grasp you get of formations and tactics, as opposed to being at about player chest height in row 8 of the north bank where I normally sit. There, things are a bit more 2D. I’ve been on intimate terms with the pitch since 1994, so as far as I’m aware we still play 4-4-2, knock it up to the tall striker (he’s got good feet for a big man) who’ll head it down to the little man for a goal. Things were better then, etc etc *looks at news, gawps*.

£5.70 for a pint of Hells (a marked improvement, even if the half-time beer queues remain stubbornly unfixed) is, regrettably, London prices, though for £5.50 you can get a pie too. I didn’t want a pie but for -20p, what’s a man to do? Have a pie, that’s what. Look after your pies and your pounds will look after themselves and all that.

Anyway, I’ve lost my track already. 

It was really fun. You often get games where someone new or returning is in the first XI and you try to keep an eye on them, but yesterday there were multiple narratives running simultaneously, so it was hard not to flit between them all. There was new boy Kieran Tierney, hailed like some kind of hero, who really caught my eye with his pace, ability to take men on and the kind of crossing that promises good times ahead. I’d bring him in now, frankly, though there may be fitness / match fitness reasons why that won’t happen.

Then there was Holding (you know), who was back looking assured and bagging himself a goal. There was Martinelli, whose happiness, joie-de-vivre, smile, boundless energy and killer instinct contrasts markedly with me. In my defence, I am in my late 40s. And not a footballer. And a miserable, battered cynic.

Bellerin, another returning hero, was lauded onto the pitch then provided an assist for Joe Willock. Reiss Nelson got his first ever goal. Chambers was aggressive and played with real intent – in two positions. Smith Rowe got clonked in the head but it was good to see him too. Overall, there were all sorts of things to be happy about, truth be told. Even Ozil was there, and I thought he was pretty creative to be honest, but that was some kind of world-class trudging he did when he was subbed off. He needs a bit of what Martinelli has. Don’t we all.

Hats off to Forest fans for travelling in such numbers, though their team barely showed up. The official attendance was 53,160, but that was suitably generous – there were large swathes of the upper tier empty, but given the biblical rain and travel problems, it was a good effort by all.

Overall, it was hugely enjoyable and offered welcome shelter from the wailing and angst that accompanies the structural chaos of our Premier League campaign. Some of these players must surely now be contenders for Man Utd away. When you think of it that way, the potential change afoot in the Arsenal first XI is really exciting.

And I still don’t *really* know what a Carabao is.