Edward Nketiah dragged Arsenal into the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup with a late brace against an impressive Norwich side.
It was by no means a convincing victory for the Gunners on the night. Arsene Wenger’s men were sub-par for large parts of the match and with due respect to Norwich, Arsenal wouldn’t have stood a chance against a better side, had they put in this kind of a performance.
Norwich took the lead early on with a well taken goal chip from Josh Murphy in the 34th minute. The visitors’ defence looked like they had matters under control for the most part and never looked liked like they were in too much danger as the game went on.
The Canaries looked like they would be on their way to the quarterfinals, before an 18-year-old Edward Nketiah, who had just been introduced seconds before, finished from close range in the 85th minute to bring his side level with his very first touch of the game
That was enough to send the game to go into extra time and in the 96th minute, Nketiah headed his side into the lead to send the Emirates into raptures. A late and frankly clumsy challenge on James Husband in the box from Mathieu Debuchy wasn’t punished with a penalty, much to the malign of the visitors and their fans.
Norwich did try to get back into the game but never came close, and the gunners held out till the very end to seal a spot in the quarter finals, as the Emirates chanted the name of their new English hero.
Matt Macey: 6
Brought in to replace David Ospina in goal, the Englishman didn’t disappoint at all with his performance. He made a number of good saves throughout the game. Norwich’s attempts at his goal were rare, so he had to stay aware throughout.
Could have maybe done better with Murphy’s chip, given that it seemed to be well within the reach of his huge 6’6 frame. All in all, it was a good debut for the 23-year-old, but too early to say whether he can actually compete with Ospina and Cech just yet.
Mathieu Debuchy: 6
A good performance from the Frenchman, with his only fault being that he didn’t track Murphy’s run which led to the opened. The rating would’ve been lower had he been punished for the clumsy challenge he made on James Husband in the box, deep into extra time.
Besides those two errors, he was Arsenal’s best defender on the night and this kind of performance will do a world of good for his confidence and also force Wenger to consider involving him more as a part of a back three in future games.
Mohamed Elneny: 5
Lucky to not get sent off and this performance won’t do anything to help him make his case as a full time defender. Wenger would be better off playing him in midfield. Lacked confidence and failed to provide the assuredness in midfield that comes with Koscielny, Mustafi and Mertesacker.
Rob Holding: 6
Did well on the night alongside two other makeshift center-backs. Won a few challenges and tried to stay calm a cut a resolute figure, which he did for the most part.
Reiss Nelson: 6
Not a bad performance from the youngster, but not a great one either. He was one of Arsenal’s better players on the night, but in a performance like this, that doesn’t really say much. Showed glimpses of what he’s capable of, but needs to step up when he gets his chance.
Francis Coquelin: 6
Couldn’t strike up a great midfield partnership with Alex Iwobi and often seemed to struggle with keeping the Norwich midfield at bay. Seemed slightly overwhelmed at times, but he did get the all important flick which helped Nketiah score the equalizer.
Jack Wilshere: 6
The Englishman got a full 114 minutes under his belt, which is a huge deal for him and the club. Fitness has been Wilshere’s main issue for most of his career and this is an extremely encouraging sign. Like in the Europa league game, Wenger once agains deployed him in an attacking role.
It was widely expected that he would start in the center of the park alongside Francis Coquelin and perhaps would’ve done better in that position. Didn’t have his most memorable game and there has been little to suggest that he should make this his permanent position.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 6
Didn’t have much of an impact on the game, despite all his efforts. Needs to do better going forward, his final ball still needs improvement, as does his decision making. His comfort on the ball is evident and is capable of making good runs, but seemed to lack conviction in his game.
Theo Walcott: 5
Not a good performance from the Englishman. Led his team out as captain, but barely offered anything going forward. Didn’t do well playing in behind Giroud and seemed fatigued. Did however, set up the second goal from his corner and play a role in the first.
Alex Iwobi: 6
Showed flashes of ability, but perhaps being made to play in a deeper role in midfield hindered his performance. His lack of experience in that position is evident and perhaps he would’ve done better had he played in a more advanced role, where Wilshere was instead.
Olivier Giroud: 5
The Frenchman’s first game after receiving the Puskas award was a disappointing outing. Tried to get a few miles under his belt, but couldn’t impact the game in any positive way. Lack of proper service from his teammates didn’t help either.
Chuba Akpom: 5
The first of Arsenal’s four substitutes, came on for Maitland-Niles in the 70th minute and did little to impact the game. Got close on one occasion late in the game, but skewed it wide from close range. Tried to involve himself as much as he could, but couldn’t do much.
Edward Nketiah: 9
A stunning debut for the 18-year-old. Almost single-handedly dragged his team to the quarterfinals on what was only his second ever senior appearance for Arsenal and saved some of his much more experienced senior teammates and manager the blushes.
Looked lively and was always trying to exploit the tired legs and lack of pace in the Norwich defence. Nearly had his hat-trick later on in the game, but hit his shot with far too much power. Looked more threatening in 25 minutes that Walcott and Giroud were all night.