If Arsenal’s entry to Carabao Cup At this early stage due to their absence from the European competition, they booked their way to the next round by showing their true class. Against the reserve club team, admittedly, but this was a show that Mikel Arteta and his team could encourage.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick on his first start to the season, and Nicolas Pepe, Bucayo Saka and Alexandre Lacazette also scored in a match where the visitors threatened to score almost every time they attacked. Now all they have to do is play this way regularly against stronger opponents. Then confidence will grow in the Arsenal players and the Arteta process.
Aubameyang’s performance was one of Arteta’s many positives. The club captain has scored only once for Arsenal since being laid off from the north London derby in March and his preparation for this season has been disrupted by illness, but here he has been sharp and dynamic. “The goals will be great for his confidence,” said Arteta, who praised the striker’s overall impact. “I said leadership has to come from the great players, along with solutions, and for the rest to complement that with the energy and passion they bring – tonight was a good example.”
Other big bonus points for Arsenal were Saka’s brilliance and some delicious touches from Martin Odegaard on his first appearance since his permanent move from Real Madrid. Aaron Ramsdale wasn’t particularly busy on his debut but he did what he had to do well.
Valérien Ismaël’s squad ensured Arteta would have no excuses, as the West Brom boss involved the shadow team, omitting all players who started the last game of the tournament and made their debuts for the youth nine. “Obviously our priority is the championship,” explained the Frenchman, who has yet to apologize after West Brom’s record defeat in this competition.
Arsenal quickly discovered that second-strand West Brom was intent on implementing the superior attacking style that Ismail had preached, with more pressure and direct moves than anything we saw here under Sam Allardyce last season. Quevin Castro, cute but very eager, was booked in the second minute to catch Ødegaard, and Ramsdale rushed into a pair of uncomfortable early breaks. Soon the goalkeeper had to make a first save, dropping to his right to block a light curling effort from clever Tom Fellowes. West Brom pulled Arsenal off with a clever routine from the ensuing corner, but Adam Rich slipped his foot from seven yards.
Arsenal did not wither. Their departure was more complicated than the hosts’, but they could only make this matter if it matched the energy of West Brom – which they mostly did. Then they seized it. Their first pressing goal came from their best performance, Saka sending Castro out of West Bromwich Albion’s area before he ignored another challenge and unloaded a shot that only Alex Palmer could dodge. Aubameyang swept the rebounding ball into the net from close range. Ødegaard could have made it 2-0 after another shot was blocked by Saka, but from an uncomfortable angle, the Norwegian hit his shot at the post.
Arsenal crushed the resistance of its hosts before the break with two goals in two minutes. Aubameyang made it 2-0 by exploiting another rebound, this time after Pepe hit the post after being sent in by Mohamed Elneny. Palmer denied Aubameyang a hat-trick moments later after playing more intensely than Saka, but the Gabonese striker put a rebound in Pepe’s way who pushed it into the net.
Arsenal’s hunger was uncertain. They continued their lead four minutes after the appeal with a superb goal. Saka slipped to the left before cutting into the field and feeding Odegaard and continuing his run. Ødegaard returned the ball to him with a delicious reverse flick, and Saka finished off emphatically. Aubameyang provided a better finishing touch to complete his hat-trick. After Ainsley Maitland-Niles awarded him the ball in the left corner of the penalty area, the striker fired a superb shot outside the goalkeeper and into the far corner of the net.
Arsenal keep coming. Pépé sent a lob over the crossbar after substitute Lacazette fired him. One minute later, Pépé switched to provider, and Lacazette showed him how to finish the match, firing a low shot into the net from 12 yards.