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Arsenal: Wenger buoyed; Gunners penalty factor; bizarre Arshavin revelation

Arsene Wenger was his team’s pace of passing, as Arsenal cruised to 4-0 win over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground in the third round of the EFL Cup. The Frenchman made 11 changes from the team that beat Hull City at the weekend, with youngsters Rob Holding, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Chuba Akpom and Jeff Reine-Adelaide given run outs. They were joined by the more experienced heads of Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel, Granit Xhaka, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain and Lucas Perez, and that patchwork team managed to combine and produce a convincing display. Sometimes an away tie against a Championship team can be a banana skin, and Wenger will have been a touch uncertain about how his team would gel. Post-match, Wenger said:

“We suffered in the first 20 minutes a little bit and that goal helped us. After that I think everybody was focused to play the way we want to play football, sharp movement of the ball, great mobility in our team, always quick to move the ball and overall it was a convincing performance. We had some young players who did well and Lucas scored as well so overall it’s a positive night.”

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Overall, the night couldn’t have gone any better for the Gunners. Xhaka opened the scoring with another long-range strike which will increase the clamour to hand him a starting role. Despite his impressive cameos so far this season, it is unlikely Wenger will risk a new midfield partnership against Chelsea. New striker Lucas got his first two Arsenal goals, which is important given he arrived as a slightly unheralded name so he will be keen to convince people as quickly as possible. His second goal in particular gave Gooners a glimpse of what to expect; sharp movement behind defences, and a rugged determination to score goals.

Elsewhere, another interest of last night’s game was the fact that Arsenal won another penalty their fifth in six domestic games this season. This report in the Daily Mirror states that if this rate continues, the north Londoners are on course to get 30 penalties this season:

“Firstly, it’s only the second time a team has been given four spot-kicks in their first five games of a Premier League season, after Aston Villa in 1998/99.

“Secondly, and far more importantly, it means Arsene Wenger’s side are currently winning 0.8 penalties per match. If they keep up that rate, they would end this season with a grand total of THIRTY penalties.”

Football is full of these strange quirks and happenstances, and this recent spate of penalties is probably no more than a freakish coincidence. However, there could be something more substantive to it. Olivier Giroud has found himself on the sidelines so far this term with Alexis Sanchez, Alex Iwobi, Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott all heavily involved. Though Giroud did win a penalty against Southampton, those names are all more mobile and nippy forwards than the Frenchman and likely to provoke more situations in the penalty area.

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Finally, revelations in a new book state that the influence of Vladimir Putin caused Arsenal to pay over the odds for Andrey Arshavin in 2009. The Deal by original super-agent Jon Smith and ghosted by the Evening Standard’s James Olley delves into the murky underworld of football’s transfer dealings. Smith was involved in the deal that took Arshavin to London. Zenit St Petersburg, Arshavin’s previous club, are Putin’s boyhood club and owned by state run energy company Gazprom. Putin used his controlling influence to refuse to compromise on price.

Featured image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne

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