Eddie Nketiah's delightful finish added gloss to a 3-0 win Arsenal were made to work hard for at home to AFC Wimbledon in the third round of the EFL Cup.

Arsenal had won their prior two matches – against Norwich City and Burnley – by just a single goal and looked to be heading for another narrow victory as they struggled to add to Alexandre Lacazette's early penalty.

A late flurry consisted of a vital second from Emile Smith Rowe and Nketiah's gorgeous flick, however, and Mikel Arteta's men have some momentum to carry into Sunday's derby against Tottenham.

Third-tier Wimbledon were far from embarrassed, although they must have feared the worst having conceded inside 11 minutes.

Nesta Guinness-Walker's rash lunge on Gabriel Martinelli on the right side of the penalty area gave Lacazette an opportunity from 12 yards, which he dispatched by sending Nikola Tzanev the wrong way.

But that goal was Arsenal's only shot on target of the first half, even if Tzanev almost gifted them a second when he palmed a looping ball against his own crossbar following Cedric Soares' corner.

A fierce Thomas Partey shot was pushed away after the break, while Nuno Tavares could only direct a far-post header against the upright.

Arteta was forced to bring on Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka to put the game to bed, however, and the Arsenal number 10 found the breakthrough, prodding in after a scramble with Lacazette claiming the assist.

Nketiah's backheel took the game away from Wimbledon, before Saka twice came close to getting his own name on the scoresheet, whipping a first shot wide and finding Tzanev his match from the second.

Mikel Arteta is backing his kid captains to lead Arsenal out of the gloom as the Gunners launch their quest for EFL Cup silverware.

After a poor Premier League start, Arsenal have strung together 1-0 wins over Norwich City and Burnley, with Arteta pinpointing Martin Odegaard as a key factor behind their improvement.

The Gunners had lost each of their first three top-flight games, but confidence is growing before their first meeting with AFC Wimbledon in the cup on Wednesday.

Arsenal have only failed to go beyond the third round of the competition in one of the last 18 seasons.

Odegaard, who made his move permanent from Real Madrid after a loan spell at Emirates Stadium, scored the winner against Burnley last time out.

Arteta hailed the 22-year-old for the difference he is making, as well as highlighting the importance of fellow young midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga, who turns 22 in October.

Experienced striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang remains Arsenal skipper, but the team now have others with priceless captaincy experience.

"I think we are building some leadership in the group," Arteta said. "It’s a really young group, with a lot of players under 23.

"Martin is the captain of the [Norway] national team and Sambi was the captain at Anderlecht.

"Martin has this capacity to do that with his talent, taking the ball in moments where others probably refuse to, but as well with his attitude, his rhythm and the way he presses and puts people under pressure. He's probably the first to do it.

"I was really impressed with Auba [Aubameyang] as well – I think his rhythm and high pressing was fantastic."

The last lower-league team to beat Arsenal in the EFL Cup were Walsall in 1983, and this is the first time AFC Wimbledon have reached the third round.

But Arteta insisted his focus remains on one game at a time, despite an expected one-sided affair on Wednesday when fringe first-team players are likely to be involved.

"These games are like any other game, an opportunity for anybody to show that he deserves to be in the team and we are wrong," Arteta said, quoted on the Arsenal website.

"Focus, demand the highest standards, prepare the same way or even better.

"There is a lot of coaching now going on around the team. Young players are starting to talk and communicate, and that facilitates a lot of things in the defensive phase.

"After the difficult start that we had in many different aspects, when you start to win two games, you can win the third one. You get more momentum, more confidence, everybody's back, and then you start to create a different feeling."

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