By Rob Kelly at the City Ground
Lucas scored his first goals for the club as the Gunners cruised into the fourth round of the EFL Cup with a 4-0 victory at Nottingham Forest.
Despite making 11 changes to the team, Arsenal delivered a slick, confident display at the City Ground, with Chuba Akpom and Jeff Reine-Adelaide catching the eye.
But it was Granit Xhaka - fresh from his Hull howitzer - who opened the scoring as he once again took aim from 35 yards, and this time saw his strike take a deflection and find the top corner.
It was the club’s 400th goal in the League Cup, and there was another milestone to follow after the restart as Lucas slotted home a penalty for his first in an Arsenal shirt.
Former Gunner Nicklas Bendtner had been the focus of much of the pre-match attention, but it was a new Arsenal striker who was determined to take the headlines - and how Lucas did it.
His second goal was simply superb, as he chased down a ball he had no right to win, before beating two men and poking the ball into the empty net.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was rewarded for an excellent individual display when he raced through in injury time to make it four.
It capped off a fine night for Arsene Wenger’s side, who maintain the feelgood factor that has slowly been building ahead of Saturday’s showdown against Chelsea at Emirates Stadium.
SETTING THE SCENE
In the build-up to this match, Wenger had underlined his affection for the League Cup, which has launched the careers of the likes of Hector Bellerin and Alex Iwobi in recent years.
Who will be next off the production line? Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Jeff Reine-Adelaide and Chuba Akpom had their chance to demonstrate their credentials in a side that mixed youth with experience.
It was a return to familiar surrounds for Akpom, who spent six weeks on loan at Forest in 2015, while he also played his part in a victory for Hull at the City Ground last October.
Elsewhere, Rob Holding - celebrating his 21st birthday - started at the heart of the defence alongside Gabriel, back for his first appearance since sustaining an ankle injury in pre-season.
Kieran Gibbs was in for his second appearance of the campaign, and took the captain’s armband - five years to the day since he scored his first goal for the club.
Xhaka, fresh from his thunderbolt of a first goal on Saturday, was partnered by Mohamed Elneny in a robust midfield, while new signing Lucas made his second start up front.
There was plenty of Arsenal interest in the Forest line-up too, with Nicklas Bendtner’s inclusion catching the eye. The Denmark international had made two substitute appearances for his new club, but would lead the line, with another former Gunner - Henri Lansbury - in midfield.
With Xhaka and Elneny conducting from the base of midfield, the visitors were on the front foot from the off as they looked to test a Forest backline that had conceded 17 times already this season.
Arsenal may have been passing it around slickly, but it was the hosts who should have opened the scoring when Bendtner pounced on a defensive lapse and squared for Patjim Kasami. The former Fulham man had the goal to aim at but sliced his shot and it drifted harmlessly wide.
The game had a real tempo to it, and back the Gunners came with Reine-Adelaide - on his first start for the club - feeding Akpom in the area, and the striker’s powerful drive was palmed away by Vladimir Stojkovic.
Bendtner had looked lively in the opening stages, and he went close with a curling drive after cutting in from the left, but he could only watch on as his former club opened the scoring.
Once more it was that man Xhaka, whose thunderbolt of a left foot took centre stage again as his 35-yard drive arrowed at goal, with Stojkovic getting a hand to it but allowing it to squirm into the roof of the net.
It did not have the raw power of his strike at Hull City, but it was quite an effort to put his new club in control. The Swiss international can expect plenty of shouts of “Shooot” every time he gets within 40 yards of goal from now on.
Arsenal continued to threaten and came close to doubling their advantage on the stroke of half time when Reine-Adelaide fired inches wide of the far post after a slick counter-attack.
Bendtner had caused a few problems in the first half, and he continued to ask questions after the restart, immediately finding space in the area before firing a shot wide of the far post.
But Arsenal looked the more likely to extend their advantage, and they had the perfect opportunity when Akpom was taken down in the area by Michael Mancienne.
Lucas - eager to open his account for the club - stepped up and calmly slotted his penalty into the corner beyond the outstretched hand of Stojkovic, who had guessed the right way.
The travelling fans were really enjoying themselves, and were in fine voice throughout the second half - especially as Lucas scored his second.
It summed up an industrious, hard-working performance as he battled for a ball he had initially looked second best for, bumping Mancienne off the ball and racing into the area. There was still plenty to do, but he poked the ball past the onrushing Stojkovic and forced the ball over the line.
It was an excellent goal, and one that offers real encouragement for the future. That sort of goal is exactly what we had been told to expect from the muscular frontman, and how he delivered.
Lucas had an opportunity to complete his hat-trick after the ball fell kindly to him on the edge of the box, but his sliced shot was the only mis-step of an otherwise fine night for the Spaniard and his team.
Oxlade-Chamberlain capped off an excellent night’s work when he flew through on goal and slotted beyond Stojkovic.
Arsenal march on.
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Referee: Paul Tierney
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