Arsenal beat AFC Wimbledon 3-0 at home on Wednesday night to advance to the Carabao Cup last 16, setting up a meeting with Leeds United in the next round.
Faced with a club 38 places below them in the English football pyramid, Mikel Arteta’s side were expected to win, and they got the ball rolling in the 11th minute.
Gabriel Martinelli was brought down in the box, with Alexandre Lacazette, who has yet to miss an Arsenal penalty kick, converting the following penalty.
That was the Gunners’ lone shot on target in a first half in which the manager chose to deploy a powerful team, one he hinted at before the game, a choice that paid off after the interval, even if those in attendance were expecting for a touch of young injection.
Bukayo Saka even entered the game soon before the second half in front of a sell-out crowd of 45,000 at Emirates Stadium, and he was engaged in the build-up with his teammate Hale Ender.
With the clock winding down, there was still time for Eddie Nketiah’s greatest goal of the night to put the game out of reach. Cedric’s right-wing cross found the striker, who finished with a wonderful improvised flick into the bottom far corner.
It’s a victory that neatly sets up a tense match against Tottenham on Sunday, as the Gunners have now won three games in a row, with three clean sheets to boot. Spirits are up, and the crew is on a roll, so here are some takeaways from a relaxing night in north London.
Aaron Ramsdale is unquestionably the Number One
There was never much of a debate over it in the first place.
There were few doubts about Aaron Ramsdale’s suitability for the role and position in the standings after he was given the nod for Norwich’s visit and then kept his place against Burnley, but seeing Bernd Leno start against AFC Wimbledon with the 23-year-old nowhere in sight completely cemented that.
Despite the fact that the Dons failed to record a shot on target on the night, the choices debunk any baseless rumours that Leno would be reinstalled in the lineup for the North London Derby.
It puts an end to all of that foolishness and establishes Ramsdale as the uncontested top choice.
There is no reason to make any more changes now that he has established himself in the side, most especially away at Turf Moor. He’s gotten his chance, and he’s making use of it.
Thomas Partey’s Inclusion Causes Panic
With only four days between Wednesday’s match and Tottenham’s visit, every supporter was taken aback when they saw a teamsheet that had Thomas Partey not only in the squad but also in the starting lineup. Isn’t he supposed to be wrapped with cotton wool?
Supporters are considerably more concerned than players and coaches about this aspect of the game. The idea of a professional athlete playing more than once a week is considered ludicrous.
However, what the sports/physiology team believes is best for the player is typically followed. The Ghanaian, on the other hand, need minutes.
Nothing will get him more up to speed with the physical demands of playing high-intensity football than…actually playing football. It wouldn’t have been ideal preparation to spend a week of training between Turf Moor and the North London Derby without being able to build up match fitness – nothing prepares players better than competitive matches.
That doesn’t stop everyone from worrying, and if he’d had an injury, there would have been outrage, but now that he’s recovered from his ankle ailment, he’s played 30, 70, and 60 minutes. He was in desperate need of this acclimatization. Thankfully, everything went smoothly. A firing Partey is one who is in good shape.
Mikel Arteta Taking No Risks With Strong Lineup
Would it have been nice to see a couple of academy stars on the bench? Yes, it would have.
Instead, the manager opted to field a side stuffed full of senior players, and while there were ten changes to the lineup from the win over Burnley, it was a team consisting of fringe first-teamers.
Seeing the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool inject a host of youth for their third-round ties, Arteta didn’t follow suit and satisfy a few hungry supporters who were keen to see what the academy had on offer – namely Charlie Patino.
It’s a trophy the manager clearly wants to win (as all do) and in maintaining continuity he’s building a winning mentality and confidence that will be essential if Arsenal are to achieve their goals this season. Given the Premier League, the starting lineup is nailed down, his thinking must be that he wants the whole senior squad in the same boat, with the same emotions and the same confidence.
You can understand it. The first team is the most important and if they’re fitter then Arsenal is fitter.
But did there need to be not even one youngster on the bench? With all due respect, it’s AFC Wimbledon at home. A League One side. Arsenal has a strong enough squad to maintain the winning momentum without having field Sead Kolasinac on the bench, for example.
This is the way the manager is going, however, and there is plenty of understanding behind it. It’s hoped he’ll do likewise with the FA Cup, however, since that trophy also offers Europa League football.