Mikel Arteta made a host of changes for this game from his settled Premier League side.
In came Cedric Soares for Takehiro Tomiyasu, who is carrying a small niggle, and was the only real injury concern before the game. The other changes were all made with an eye to resting senior players.
The full-back had a very impressive evening, as did Nicolas Pepe and, of course, Eddie Nketiah but we should also keep in mind that Sunderland arrived at the Emirates from League One.
Still, you can only beat what is in front of you and that sort of thing hasn’t stopped Arsenal for being stupid before. Against the Black Cats, Arsenal definitely seemed to show reduced levels of idiocy, hinting at the whole squad improving in fundamental ways.
The highlight of the highlights for most was probably Charlie Patino, looking like he was up way past his bedtime, slotting home in the 90th minute to score on his Arsenal debut, making him the youngest to do that since 1963.
To make you feel super old, the 18-year-old was born when Arsenal were already 10 games into their unbeaten run.
— Chris Wheatley (@ChrisWheatley_) December 21, 2021
Bukayo Saka with Charlie Patino on Instagram story:
Saka: “Woah! Say something!”
Patino: “To all the players here…”
Saka: “Ha! Shut up!”
— afcstuff (@afcstuff) December 21, 2021
Eddie Nketiah 🤝 the League Cup
— The Athletic UK (@TheAthleticUK) December 21, 2021
“Remember the name…
Hale End. Just doing it’s thaaaaang.
Again. 😉 pic.twitter.com/oK1OZXVXO0
— Grovesy (@Grov_esy) December 21, 2021
Arsenal player ratings vs Sunderland (half-time)
- Bernd Leno 6.9 (6.4)
- Nuno Tavares 7.8 (6.4) – A
- Rob ‘I have hair now’ Holding 7.3 (6.7)
- Benjamin White 6.9 (6.7)
- Cedric Soares 8.6 (7.7) – A
- Mohamed Elneny 6.9 (6.4)
- Folarin Balogun 6.6 (6.3)
- Martin Odegaard 7.1 (6.3)
- Emile Smith Rowe 7.5 (7.1)
- Nicolas ‘Nutmeg’ Pepe 9.2 (7.8) – GAA
- Eddie Nketiah 9.7 (7.6) – GGG
- Granit Xhaka 6.6
- Gabriel Martinelli 6.3
- Gabriel 6.1
- Charlie Patino 7.5 – G
on the performance…
Very good. We are through to the semi-final which is what we wanted. We decided to rotate quite a lot today and it took some time in the first half to get that cohesion. We scored two good goals but after that we lacked something. We got more control in the second half and scored some beautiful goals as well.
on Nketiah’s future…
I tell you every day that we want to keep Eddie. We see how he trains, that’s what he does every day, he works so hard and puts the ball in the net every session. I am really delighted with him. Every time we have needed him he has always responded.
on whether it’s tough to leave him out of the Premier League side…
The way we planned the squad and the way his situation looked in the window, he had a lot of options to go and we thought that was probably the best way to go. But the way we assembled the squad the situation changed and he decided to stay and it was hard to find minutes for him. But he’s finding the space right now and is using his minutes really well.
on whether Eddie could still stay…
We are trying. It’s not about anything else but minutes. He wants gametime, he wants to be on that field and that is the only reason to say, ‘Can I do it here?’ That’s the question. We all want him to stay.
on whether he will have more chances now…
Yes. Recently he’s played more minutes than in the past and we’re going to need him and he’s going to play more minutes.
on what he offers that the other forwards don’t…
I don’t know if he’s different to other other strikers but I really like what he has. He has incredible work rate, he has pace and has the smell for goals. He has the capacity to finish in the box on any surface and then I really like his character. He wants to be the best and works all the time to do that. He’s a player that has come through our system and that’s why we want to keep him.
on how encouraging recent performances have been…
When you win football matches everything looks much better. We have to be consistent with the decisions that we make, keep trying to improve all the time the way we play, perform better and better and the results will come. They are coming right now and now it is about consistency. There are a lot of games coming up and we want to maintain that form.
on whether the competition is treated with enough respect generally…
I don’t see a lot of coaches and clubs tossing this competition off, because everyone wants to win and everyone wants to win trophies. If you see the lineups 10 years ago and now they are pretty different.
on Charlie Patino’s debut goal…
A beautiful moment. He is a kid that is coming through our system, a lovely kid. He is training with us almost every week. It was a dream. As a debut to come here, to score in front of our fans, a really special moment.
on the hype about him…
I see that! I saw it around the club.
on the fans singing his name before he came on the pitch…
I know, I know. I think that is very positive. They heard about him and know what he can become and now we have to cook him slowly. Today was a good start, I think.
on whether there’s too much hype…
No, that is what we have to avoid. He still has a lot of competition in front of him. He is really young. And he needs to go step by step. Today he was lucky, he got the opportunity and he took it really well.
on Pepe’s display…
It is hard for everyone who doesn’t play. What they have to do is when they have the minutes, show on the pitch that they can do it and they are ready when the team needs him.