Eddie Nketiah came to Arsene Wenger’s rescue with two vital goals in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Norwich in the Carabao Cup.
The 18-year-old came on with just five minutes of the game left to play, and with the Gunners crashing out the competition thanks to a first half Josh Murphy strike, to turn the match on its head.
He bagged with his first touch – a toe poke from a corner – to take the game to extra time before thundering a header past Angus Gunn to book Arsenal’s place in the quarter-finals of the competition.
Norwich, who were fantastic throughout the last-16 tie, were unlucky not to get anything from a match they excelled in for large spells. But Nketiah was the difference.
Here’s five things we learnt from the Carabao Cup clash.
1. Welcome to Arsenal, Matt Macey
“He has outstanding basic qualities because his size is exceptional, but he’s also very quick for a boy of that size,” said Wenger, waxing lyrical about the young goalkeeper ahead of the game.
“He’s very, very quick, agile, has worked very hard technically and has improved. He has a fantastic mentality. The last step is that you have to grab that chance when you get it.”
The 23-year-old 6ft 7in goalkeeper definitely attempted to take his manager’s words on board, what with David Ospina missing the game with a groin problem and Emiliano Martinez out on loan at Getafe.
The Bath-born shot-stopper, who had little to do in the first half of his Arsenal debut, could do nothing about Josh Murphy’s opener for Norwich.
And showed his confidence hadn’t been knocked with a great save just five minutes later. He’ll have enjoyed playing in front of a huge crowd at the Emirates, that’s for sure, and has plenty to build upon from his first game.
2. Theo Walcott is definitely no captain
It’s hard to believe Walcott is 28 years old and has been at the Emirates club since 2006. But he has, and tonight, he should have done more.
Walcott should have been commanding this team of Arsenal youngsters, showing Wenger exactly why he deserves a place in the first team.
But he didn’t. Walcott’s made just nine appearances in all competitions for the Gunners this season, and has scored three times.
He featured in the 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade but was subsequently dropped for the 5-2 demolition of Everton in the Premier League last time out.
And after tonight, you can expect to see him dropped for the Swansea game.
3. Norwich haven’t lost for two months… and it showed
Last time out the Canaries beat their bitter rivals Ipswich Town in the Championship and were full of confidence going into this game.
And the showed it.
They haven’t been beaten since returning after the August international break, which is pretty sensational, and showed Arsenal no respect in their own back yard on Tuesday.
In the first half Murphy broke the deadlock with a cheeky effort while Harrison Reed showed he was happy to fight with the best of them.
While in the second the Canaries continued to test the Gunners, and actually carved out better chances than their more illustrious opposition.
Very unlucky to concede late on and eventually lose the match, but can certainly be proud of their performance.
4. Jack Wilshere needs to stay focused
He’s only just returned to the fray for Arsenal, and has to be patient.
Wenger has used him frequently in the Europa League this year following a serious injury, which hampered his progress at Bournemouth last season.
And brought him on from the bench in Arsenal’s 5-2 demolition of Everton last time out, after Wilshere impressed in the 1-0 win over Red Star Belgrade.
He’s certainly showed once again that he has the potential to succeed, but he needs to take his time.
Wilshere cut a frustrated figure in the first half and conceded two fouls, which could – perhaps should – have earned him yellow cards. While in the second half he eventually received a booking.
He appeared restricted throughout the game and definitely let his frustration get the better of him.
5. Eddie Nketiah is the future
The youngster was brought on in the 85th minutes of the Carabao Cup clash, when Arsenal were 1-0 down and out of ideas.
And within a second they were back in the game thanks to Nketiah. He’d only played a minute for the Arsenal first team prior to this match, but bagged from a corner to take the tie to extra time.
He then went on to put the home side ahead, hitting the back of the net with a brilliant header from a Mohamed Elneny cross, which Angus Gunn had no chance of saving.
Nketiah got Wenger out of jail tonight, and did a brilliant job of introducing himself to the Emirates crowd.