It has been 27 years since this trophy was claimed by Arsenal, who have made it a showpiece for their next generation rather than something for the here and now. But the young ones are older, wiser and the club are moving on.
There was something more muscular, less vulnerable, than the performance of the young side eliminated last season after a breath-taking 5-5 draw at Liverpool – whom Arsenal may now meet in the 4th Round and Premier League within the space of a week.
This side run harder, cede less ground and it was hard to avoid the impression on Wednesday that Mesut Ozil is being consigned to their past.
Arsenal are through to the fourth-round of the Carabao Cup after beating Leicester 2-0 at the King Power on Wednesday
Arsenal took the lead when Christian Fuchs deflected the ball into his own net after Nicolas Pepe’s effort had hit the post
Eddie Nketiah’s late strike ensured victory for Mikel Arteta’s side after the forward stumbled through to fire past Danny Ward
Leicester (4-2-3-1): Ward; Amartey; Morgan; Fuchs; Albrighton; Choudry; Dewsbury-Hall (Perez 76); Thomas; Gray; Maddison (Praet 72); Iheanacho
Subs not used: Jakupovic; Knight; Justin; Tielemens; Barnes;
Arsenal (3-5-2): Leno; Holding; Luiz; Kolasinac; Maitland-Niles; Elneny; Willock (Ceballos); Saka (Bellerin 87); Pepe; Nelson (Willian 72); Nketiah
Subs not used: Runarsson; Saliba; Xhaka; Lacazette
Scorers: Fuchs (OG 57); Nketiah (90)
Ozil has been dropped like a stone by Mikel Arteta, not playing a single minute’s football since the Restart, and when a player cannot even make a Carabao Cup Third Round squad, it seems ominous.
Pressed repeatedly on Ozil’s omission late on Wednesday night, Arteta had nothing positive to offer him.
‘The team is evolving and you can see the levels they are achieving,’ Arteta said.
‘He needs to keep maintaining that level in training. We are picking the players we believe are best for each game and you can see we are changing. The team is evolving. The players are changing. Every week we try to pick the right players.’
In Bukayo Saka, Reiss Nelson and Eddie Nketiah there was evidence of new, young, more dynamic future. Nelson was arguably the pick of the three, though for him this game was proof of the brutally slim margins between glory and obscurity in football.
Arteta has done nothing to dispel the suggestion that the 20-year-old, who burst onto the scene in Arsene Wenger’s last season, might be sold and the player seemed intent on proving the folly of that judgement.
Nelson displayed endeavour and imagination, operating across the full face of Leicester’s box, socks around his calves, and drawing a save of the highest order from Danny Ward in the game’s fifth minute.
Pepe’s first effort was saved by Ward but Wes Morgan was slow to respond as the Frenchman fired the rebound on to the post
Reiss Nelson missed two great chances to score with Ward saving the first before he screwed the second chance wide
But then he spurned two good chances to score came and went. The second, screwed wide from space in the box, may haunt him in the weeks to come.
Asked if Nelson might head out somewhere on loan, Arteta declined to comment. He made way for Willian in the second half.
Bukaya Saka picked up where he had left off in his sparkling Community Shield performance against Liverpool, making life difficult for Marc Albrighton. He also had a good penalty call turned down.
Leicester, whose starters included eight players who had not featured all season, were second best throughout. Their problems now include a groin injury which could see Wilfred Ndidi out for 12 weeks.
James Maddison made his first start of the season after three months out and almost worked an opening in the first half
But James Maddison, back after three months with a hip injury, was an outstanding presence. He’d been the creative fulcrum for Leicester when, five minutes before the interval, he manoeuvred his way into space, ran at five Arsenal defenders and arced a shot from the left hand side of the penalty area which struck the post.
The individual struggling to make any impact was Nicolas Pepe, signed for £72m a year ago, until he helped break the deadlock three minutes before the hour mark after Saka stole possession from Christian Fuchs and located him.
Pepe’s first shot was pummelled away by Ward but his rebound effort cannoned in off Fuchs.
Arsenal almost extended their lead when Nketiah’s brilliant lob was headed off the line by Morgan. And though Leicester should have equalised when Ayoze Perez headed Marc Albrighton’s free-kick wide, progress was sealed when substitute Hector Bellerin powered into the box and found Nketiah, whose goal proved his poacher’s instinct.
Ayoze Perez missed a great chance to draw the home side level but could only put his header wide from six yards out
Mikel Arteta’s young side looked more threatening and dangerous than the one beaten by Liverpool last season’s competition