Looking at the fixtures list over the next few weeks, the most drama I felt we’d have to deal with was a testy League Cup semi-finals. Not for a second did I think we’d have trouble facing down a lowly Nottingham Forest without a coach and just 1 win in 7.
I was brutally wrong. Nottingham Forest were more than a match for our hybrid FA Cup team. The mix of fringe first-teamers coasting on fat wages that don’t match their ability, plus incredibly raw talent that failed under a complete lack of senior leadership, gave us a stale drip tray of a game.
Under no circumstances should Arsenal ever concede 4 goals away from home at a Championship side. It’s not acceptable. Forest were legitimately deserving of their win. Ben Bererton – a Stoke youth reject – was absolutely excellent. He picked on Per Mertesacker in the first half, taking advantage of his rapid decline in pace, and in the second half, the 18-year-old absolutely bullied Rob Holding. It was career ending stuff, I’ve never seen something so embarrassing.
The first goal was comical defending from a freekick on the edge of the box by the corner flag. Lichaj camped out at the back post, took a yard on our defensive line that wasn’t inline with the freekick wall. The delivery was fired at the near post because Ospina had left a massive target to aim at. Lichaj slinked in and crushed his header in from a yard. Absolutely farcical.
The response was fairly rapid up the other end, Theo Walcott delivered an excellent freekick from a similar place to the Forest effort. Rob Holding connected with a thunderous downward header that bounced off the post, Per Mertesacker of all people on hand to finish with an outside of the boot left-footed volley.
The second goal was pretty unstoppable, Rob Holding headed out to the edge of the area and Lichaj volleyed the sweetest looping shot tightly into the top corner. Ospina had no chance and gave up halfway across the goal. Only Arsenal could be responsible for the 6th and 7th goal in the career of a 29-year-old defender.
The early phase of the second half was mostly marked by Brereton dominating Rob Holding. Our John Stones comparable was at a loss as to how to deal with the 18-year-olds pace and hustle. He was being outclassed and you could see the frustration in his increasingly petulant play. His shocking game really took a tumble when he intercepted a Forest back heel in our penalty area, as he turned, a Forest player picked up the run of the ball and flew right over Holding’s leg. Clear penalty. Our 3rd in 3 games. Brereton stepped up and scored sending Ospina the wrong way.
We did claw a goal back, the ever awful Iwobi dropped an unbelievable pass that broke all the lines in one swoop, it found Welbeck who clattered with the keeper, came off with a tap in that he bundled home in his usual clumsy fashion (I think the keeper actually pushed it on target).
The fourth was a little more controversial, and yet again, a penalty. Debuchy chased down Armand Traore of all people (haunted by ex left backs, amirite?), he hooked his foot around the Frenchman’s legs winning the ball, but the ref blew anyway. It looked like a good tackle to me, but anything from behind comes with a trigger whistle reaction. The actual kick managed to be controversial as well. Dowell slipped on his run and two touched the ball into the net. The ref consulted with his lino, but gave it anyway. It’s shit officiating, but without VAR, a tough one to spot. Our 27th penalty conceded in a row. Seaman and Manninger needed.
So, Arsenal out the FA Cup 3rd round for the first time since 1996 against Sheffield United. Shocking result.
So what to make of the result?
It’s par the course for Wenger these days. We know it’s over for him. We know these sorts of results will follow him around forever now.
Wenger blew the FA Cup for the League Cup. I understand resting your best players, but to not even take them when you’re fully aware that the second string were beaten by bottom of the Bundesliga Köln is quite the risk. Another bad decision. He was the only manager in the top 6 who didn’t give his first choice striker a single minute. Fine when you have Giroud as the backup, but when you’re rocking Danny Welbeck and a host of kids as back up, it’s not smart. Also, Ozil was rested against WBA, did he really need another day off?
The defence was a complete mess. When is Arsene going to address it? We’re not managing the basics, and haven’t been for a while. We had a World Cup winner at the heart unable to organize fairly capable players. The whole system seems anti-defending. The midfield doesn’t know what the defence is doing and vice versa. We have no grasp of zonal marking. We’re frantic under pressure. A club of our size should know what to do at all levels from a setpiece. Total basics that are lacking. We have Steve Bould twiddling his thumbs, why isn’t he given the defence to work on? Why don’t we find the best defensive coach in Europe and bring them in to help. It’s not like we’re conceding goals at the expense of expansive attacking either, we’re shite at that as well.
Alex Iwobi created one of our goals, but outside that contribution, it was a pretty pathetic offering today. He’s just not clicking. I’m unsure of what he’s supposed to be offering to the team. He looks out of ideas and confidence. Yet Wenger persists over and over again. Once you become a Wenger favourite, he’ll play you regardless of what you’re delivering on the pitch, like some sort of weird pet project. I don’t see where this one ends.
The biggest issue I took from yesterday was the lack of leadership from the senior players. Per, Welbeck, Walcott, Debuchy, and Elneney were absolutely nowhere. Players of that age and experience should be able to lift a team. They should be able to take the game by the scruff of the neck and destroy weak opposition. If they can’t, why do they remain on the wage bill?
Wenger keeps mediocrity on great money, then flaps as to why we never progress. Those senior players are cloggers, mailing it in on the regular.
The manager is the ultimate enabler of the substandard. Until he leaves, we’ll keep running into results that shock. The issues can’t be cured with more expensive players because at the core of it, they’re not coached. We’re at the mercy of a dead man walking. The biggest fear I have is that there is a pot of glorious failure that’ll save him again, and we’ll be having the same conversation this time next year.
Onto Chelsea, this years saving grace.
Also, take a listen of our podcast. We discuss the Forest disgrace, we talk League Cup and we jump into Wenger’s fury at his loss of power, and have a look into the weird Arteta story doing the rounds.
Apologies we didn’t get into questions, we didn’t realise so much was going off!