Martinelli on Fire as Arsenal Thump Standard Liege
It was clearly evident that Unai Emery was going to make wholesale changes to the team that put up that shitefest at Old Trafford and with Standard Liege coming to town, the opportunity existed to gain a stronghold of the group. Emi Martinez expectedly deputized in goal while the gaffer handed starts to the recently recovered injury trio, Rob Holding, captain Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney in defense. The out-of-favor Skhodran Mustafi completed the back line. In midfield, Lucas Torreira and Dani Ceballos played behind Chris Willock while Reiss Nelson and Ainsley Maitland-Niles flanked the impressive Gabriel Martinelli in attack.
Following that breathtaking performance against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup, I was excited to see what these lads had to offer as most of them in the playing squad are still trying to stake a claim for first team football. The Gunners hit the ground running when some lovely passing play in midfield allowed the ball to get to Tierney on the byline that whipped a cross that was nodded home by Martinelli. For someone so young, you can’t fault his bravery when he’s attempting those headers from killer crosses. If you thought his first goal was good, his second was even better, a sweet curling effort that left the goalie rooted to the spot. That’s four goals in his first two Arsenal starts, which will certainly alleviate Emery’s concerns on a backup striker to provide depth to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with Alexandre Lacazette currently injured.
Arsenal looked like they were going to score with pretty much every attack and they were three goals to the good in just 21 minutes when the ball ricocheted off a Standard Liege defender and fell kindly to Joe Willock whose first timed effort hit the bottom corner. That was his third goal this season and many Gooners will be proud to see how our Academy product has acquainted himself well with the big guns and has done really well in his fledgling career thus far. Ceballos put some gloss in the score line in the second half following some brilliant work from Martinelli on the touch line to crown an awesome display from the Gunners.
Sometimes you just gotta sit back and enjoy some brilliant football on display and these performances go a long way in giving the manager some selection headaches ahead of the grueling Premier League campaign. Emi Martinez may be our longest serving player but he has finally come of age after that impressive loan spell at Reading and he knows that he is capable of pushing Bernd Leno to his limits in his bid to make the #1 jersey is. Leno himself has been very impressive since taking over from Petr Cech but he knows he can’t rest on his laurels.
Defense is one part of the team that needs to be sorted out as the Gunners have kept only one clean sheet in their first seven Premier League games, which is really disappointing. Sead Kolasinac has been decent thus far but with the way Kieran Tierney has been playing, I can’t wait for him to switch roles with the Bosnian, as he’d be the star man in the Premier League while the Tank features in these sort of games. Right back has been a position we have struggled following Bellerin’s long term injury, but Calum Chambers has done very well in the few games he has featured thus far. I really can’t wait for Rob Holding to start featuring in the Premier League but it means that Unai Emery will need to make the hard choice to sending either Sokratis Papastathopoulos or the erratic David Luiz to the bench. Left for me, I’d choose the latter.
Joe Willock has been very decent and for some reason, I’m shocked to see that Ceballos has not yet nailed a place in the first team. That man reminds me of Santi Cazorla’s graciousness on the pitch and his technical skills are up there with the very best in the game. I also love his unpredictability factor that makes him a thorn in the flesh of opposition defenders. With Granit Xhaka and Matteo Guendouzi pretty much locked as the double pivot in midfield, there are competition for places with the likes of Mesut Ozil and Torreira in the question.
I’d also want to touch on the performances of the wingers – Nelson and Maitland-Niles. They played well as you’d expect in a game of this nature, but you can’t help but think that they haven’t still done enough to show that they are ready to nail a first team place, especially Nelson. I was surprised to see the club show some ruthlessness with the departures of Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan but it clearly meant that their exits was to pave the way for Nelson to strut his stuff but he hasn’t really impressed. His shortcomings saw Emery had a chance to Bukayo Saka, and for the winger to be rested against Standard Liege, it clearly means that he’s in contention to earn another starting berth against Bournemouth in the Premier League.
In the end, it was a great game of football and I intend to revel in it for a while before switching focus to the rigors of the Premier League.
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