Arsenal crushed Championship side Nottingham Forest 4-0 on their home turf as the Gunners kicked off the League Cup campaign on a positive note.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Chuba Akpom had their chance to demonstrate their credentials in a side that mixed youth with experience. It was a return to familiar surrounds for Akpom, who spent six weeks on loan at Forest in 2015, while he also played his part in a victory for Hull at the City Ground last October. Elsewhere, Rob Holding – celebrating his 21st birthday – started at the heart of the defence alongside Gabriel, back for his first appearance since sustaining an ankle injury in pre-season.
Kieran Gibbs was in for his second appearance of the campaign, and took the captain’s armband – five years to the day since he scored his first goal for the club. Xhaka, fresh from his thunderbolt of a first goal on Saturday, was partnered by Mohamed Elneny in a robust midfield, while new signing Lucas made his second start up front.
There was plenty of Arsenal interest in the Forest line-up too, with Nicklas Bendtner’s inclusion catching the eye. The Denmark international had made two substitute appearances for his new club, but would lead the line, with another former Gunner – Henri Lansbury – in midfield.
Despite making 11 changes to the team, Arsenal delivered a slick, confident display at the City Ground, with Chuba Akpom and Jeff Reine-Adelaide catching the eye.
But it was Granit Xhaka – fresh from his Hull howitzer – who opened the scoring as he once again took aim from 35 yards, and this time saw his strike take a deflection and find the top corner.
It was the club’s 400th goal in the League Cup, and there was another milestone to follow after the restart as Lucas slotted home a penalty for his first in an Arsenal shirt.
Former Gunner Nicklas Bendtner had been the focus of much of the pre-match attention, but it was a new Arsenal striker who was determined to take the headlines – and how Lucas did it.
His second goal was simply superb, as he chased down a ball he had no right to win, before beating two men and poking the ball into the empty net.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was rewarded for an excellent individual display when he raced through in injury time to make it four.
It capped off a fine night for Arsène Wenger’s side, who maintain the feelgood factor that has slowly been building ahead of Saturday’s showdown against Chelsea at Emirates Stadium.