Leicester City 0-2 Arsenal: League Cup – 23/09/2020

The Carabao Cup, or League Cup as it is more commonly known, has surprisingly alluded Arsenal since 1993 and was one of the few trophies that surprisingly escaped the clutches of Arsène Wenger.

For Arsenal fans, the League Cup has presented a great chance for Arsenal to introduce many a youngster to the fans, with players such as Cesc Fabregas, Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Gabriel Martinelli making their marks in the competition over the years.

This year, Arsenal may perhaps need a bolder look at the competition. Though the trophy is likely fairly low on the list of priorities for Mikel Arteta and his side, the lure of wrapping a piece of silverware by February is a difficult proposition to turn down.

Following Arsenal’s narrow win over West Ham on Saturday, Mikel Arteta made seven changes to his team, with David Luiz returning from injury to captain the side.

Captain David Luiz congratulates Nicolas Pépé for his work in Arsenal’s first goal.

Arsenal’s trips to the King Power Stadium over the years have been fairly joyless affairs, with Arsenal failing to win at the stadium since 2015, in which an Alexis Sánchez hat-trick secured Arsenal all three points in the Premier League.

Arsenal started well in Leicester, with academy products Reiss Nelson and Bukayo Saka wreaking havoc on the Leicester City defence. While Sead Kolašinac was positioned as the left-footed central defender in Arsenal’s back three, the Bosnian was given ample license to bomb forward and provide support for the Arsenal attack and to drop back into midfield in times of transition.

Arsenal created a few opportunities early on; Saka can feel aggrieved that he was not awarded a penalty after Daniel Amartey’s clumsy challenge when unnoticed by the referee, who also did not have the benefit of VAR. Saka also fired a wicked ball across the six-yard area, which alluded in the onrushing Nelson and Joe Willock.

Despite Arsenal’s dominance, it was Leicester who came the closest, with James Maddison collecting the ball and firing a spectacular effort onto the post, which was gratefully collected by Bernd Leno.

In the second-half, chances were few and far between in the early stages as both sides struggled to gain a real foothold in the game. Many of Leicester’s efforts were fired over the bar, before Arsenal broke forward with Nicolas Pépé.

Eddie Nketiah’s trademark celebration following his goal in the dying embers.

The Ivorian did well to break into the box, but his somewhat tame right-footed shot was saved by Danny Ward, however, Pépé was quick to the rebound, which cannoned off the post and ricocheted in off Christian Fuchs to give Arsenal a not entirely undeserved 0-1 lead.

From there, Leicester did very little to threaten Bernd Leno, until the introduction of former Newcastle player Ayoze Pérez. A beautifully whipped in free-kick by Maddison was met by Pérez who inexplicably fired his header wide from close-range.

With Pérez’s miss, Arsenal set about punishing Leicester for their lack of composure and while it had looked like Arsenal were happy with time-wasting football in the corner, the illusion was broken after Héctor Bellerín broke forward with pace and power into the Leicester box, before slipping the ball through for Nketiah, who after a desperate struggle and admittedly very poor goalkeeping from Ward, was able to poke the ball into the back of the net and double Arsenal’s lead just before the final whistle blew.

It was an assured and composed performance from Arsenal’s largely inexperienced side, with Arsenal’s Hale End graduates working well to preserve Mikel Arteta’s unbeaten record in domestic cup competitions.

The main talking points will likely be reserved for Reiss Nelson, who’s performance impressed the most. Nelson proved too much to handle on the left-wing for Leicester and combined well with Kolašinac and Saka, though the youngster’s finishing left a lot to be desired. Though Nelson’s creativity was essential for most of Arsenal’s attacks, there was a definite show of wastefulness from the 20-year-old.

Mikel Arteta has reportedly made Nelson available for loan and although last night’s performance had lots of positives, it was made abundantly clear that the youngster is in desperate need of another loan move to gain more experience.

As for the team performance, it was a definite improvement on their slippery win over David Moyes’ West Ham, but with elements that are to be expected of a makeshift, second-string side. Mohamed Elneny was particularly sloppy in midfield and the usual youthful ignorance that tends to plague most fouls was to be expected of players like Joe Willock, but for Mikel Arteta, there was a lot to be excited about and plenty to work on as Arsenal comfortably book their place in round four.

Arsenal team:
  1.) Bernd Leno
15.) Ainsley Maitland-Niles
16.) Rob Holding
23.) David Luiz
31.) Sead Kolašinac
  7.) Bukayo Saka (Bellerín 87′)
25.) Mohamed Elneny
28.) Joe Willock (Ceballos 78′)
19.) Nicolas Pépé
24.) Reiss Nelson (Willian 72′)
30.) Eddie Nketiah

Arsenal subs:
13.) Rúnar Alex Rúnarsson
  4.) William Saliba
  2.) Héctor Bellerín
34.) Granit Xhaka
  8.) Dani Ceballos
12.) Willian
  9.) Alexandre Lacazette

Leicester City team:
12.) Danny Ward
18.) Daniel Amartey
  5.) Wes Morgan (c)
28.) Christian Fuchs
11.) Marc Albrighton
20.) Hamza Choudhury
32.) Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Pérez 76′)
33.) Luke Thomas
  7.) Demari Gray
10.) James Maddison (Praet 72′)
14.) Kelechi Iheanacho

Leicester subs:
35.) Eldin Jakupović
  2.) James Justin
34.) Josh Knight
26.) Dennis Praet
  8.) Youri Tielemans
15.) Harvey Barnes
17.) Ayoze Pérez

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