The Warmdown: Arsenal's youth prosper as they put five past Sunderland
(Photo by David Price/Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta's Arsenal, coming off a great win against a injury-filled Leeds United on Saturday night, stormed through League One outfit Sunderland to guarantee a place in the Carabao Cup Semi Final.

Arteta opted for a youthful side, naming Folarin Balogun and Eddie Nketiah as the two frontmen. Mohammed Elneny was given his chance to operate the midfield solo, while Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Ødegaard continued to impress in the attack. 

The Mackems had key assets out injured such as Aiden McGeady and Luke O'Nien and were hindered throughout the game even further with the loss of Everton loanee, Nathan Broadhead in the last stages of the first half. 

Five thousand fans travelled from Sunderland to watch their team play at the Emirates Stadium and were in full voice for all ninety minutes, despite the turnout of events. 

Youngsters impress on the big stage:

With Arsenal weighed as the heavy favourites coming into the match, it wasn't surprising that Mikel Arteta named many youngsters in the starting lineup and one especially on the bench. 

Folarin Balogun started up top at only 20 years old after a rampant goalscoring spree with the U23s, being awarded Player of the Month in the Premier League 2 for his countless goals to propel Kevin Betsy's side up the table. Although there were chances spoiled to add his name to the scoresheet, it was a chance for fans to see the talent that was on hand to use if necessary.  

If the Carabao Cup could be renamed though, it should be after Eddie Nketiah who lead the line emphatically finishing off three wonderfully worked goals. The first was a lucky spill from Sunderland's Lee Burge which rebounded into the feet of the 22 year old. The second and third were finished off in spectacular fashion, including a backheel off Nicolas Pepe's low drilled cross. Having turned down a contract and making the matter public that he desired a new challenge and was unhappy with the lack of game time he was receiving at the Emirates, it was an impressive display to any scouts watching at Premier League clubs. 

"This competition has given me opportunities to play," he said. "I’m desperate to play football, every player wants to play. All I can do is work hard and it will work itself out." - Eddie Nketiah 

And it was no surprise to Arsenal fans that 18-year-old Charlie Patino was announced towards the end of the second half, having been labelled as 'one of the best talents to come through the Hale End Academy ever'. He immediately proved why his name is up there, latching on to Nicolas Pepe's low drilled cross again after a lovely bit of skill and slotted past Burge to make it five in the last moments of the tie. Patino sprinted towards the fans, knee sliding in great fashion while the whole team came over to congratulate him. Such a good display deserves more opportunities and with the next cup tie in the FA Cup against Championship side Nottingham Forest, it might be perfect for Charlie to emerge onto the scene yet again. 

In a week which was so impressive for Arsenal's Hale End, Tuesday night's victory emphasised how much progress Mikel's side were making and what direction the club are really facing. 

Looking forward:

The Gunners' next fixture is a Boxing Day clash away to Norwich, with hope that it won't be postponed to any more COVID outbreaks. Arsenal narrowly beat them last time out, although at the time the Gunners hadn't even scored a goal in their Premier League campaign. Norwich sit rock bottom of the table, level on points with Newcastle and three points off escape, but with Arsenal flying high in fourth place, it's a perfect time to leave the year on a positive note. 

For Sunderland, they also have a good chance to get back to winning ways facing Doncaster Rovers who are in 23rd in the relegation zone on Monday night at the Keepmoat Stadium. The Mackems are in 3rd place in League One and will be hoping that it's finally their year to return back to the Championship. 

 

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