Let’s get the Alka Seltzer in the cup right away, Matt from the podcast neatly surmised that:
‘If you are going to exit the cup, better now than at any other stage’
It would have been nice to win it, sure, but we didn’t, so going out now preserves legs, heartache, and allows us to focus on the two trophies we have left.
Your head is still spinning right, that didn’t help? Ok, understood… let’s get into the meat of our embarrassing loss. There are two ways I’m looking at it that both have an element of truth.
The first is that this is part of the turbulence of having a young team and a thin squad. We know that when certain players are missing, the Arsenal we’ve grown to love is hard to identify, that happened yesterday. We’re a long way from having a squad that can compete on two fronts.
Yes, we should have beaten Forest with any line-up we put on the field, but the attitude wasn’t there, inexperience and general awfulness won the day, we deservedly lost to a well-drilled side.
The second way I’m looking at things: this performance was partly intubated by Mikel Arteta as he danced a dangerous ensemble to make a point to the hierarchy about how skinny his squad is.
Yesterday, I applauded his ruthless attempt at engineering a player crisis by binning Auba, not signing Jack, and sending Ains out on loan. Today, can I really ignore the fact that a lot of the breathing difficulties were of Mikel’s making?
We’re caught between two truths here. I don’t think Arteta thought there was a chance this rag-tag group of players would tank quite as hard as they did, which is why he panicked in the first half and subbed off Tavares. He knew from the 3rd minute he was in a dangerous moment because there was no fight, no curiosity, and a painful lack of cohesion.
… but he could have done more to avert that disaster. Jack Wilshere should have been signed to a short term deal if we were going to have to play a side like that, because we lacked leadership and calm that he has. We could have kept Ains until the end of January if we were going to have to play someone as painfully shocking as Cedric Soares, who let’s be real, looked like he was doing the dishes poorly so we’d release him to Atletico Madrid.
Arteta cut off his nose to spite his project yesterday, it was an arrogant display from him, which felt like the move of a manager who is maybe leaning into his fan capital a little too hard. Now we only have one way into semi-decent-Europe (not Conference League), this week starts to look like the beginning of a very painful few weeks, we could be in a bit of bother if our best players don’t dig us out of a hole.
The Nuno Tavares move looked very odd to me. The player had a nightmare, he lost the ball 9 times in 34 minutes, his pass completion was 65%, it was really horrible to watch. He was well, well below the standards we need at the club. Arteta pulled him off early for Kieren Tierney. It was a humiliation move designed to crush him. A lot of people are with Mikel on it, including professionals like Ian Wright and Roy Keane. I just wonder if that sort of move is good for squad vibes. In the real world, if you ream someone out in a meeting, it might feel good, it might be deserved, but everyone who wasn’t the target also realises that they could be subject to that at some point. Sometimes it’s motivating, sometimes it’s demoralising.
‘Couldn’t you have done that in private?’ is what most people are thinking.
KT will pick up an injury, we know that, how is Nuno going to play when he’s asked to do a job? I thought the move was rash and panicked. It was also hard to marry binning Nuno while Cedric stayed on until the 88th minute (most pointless sub of the game). The worst thing about the humiliation sub… it didn’t move the performance. Nothing changed. Nuno was bad, but he wasn’t the catalyst for it, he was just the fall guy for a squad that underestimated Nottingham Forest.
There are pockets of good news. Granit Xhaka, who we missed last night, failed his COVID test before the Liverpool game, so he should be back. I think Tomi and ESR were cautionary. We should have the rest of our defence back in place, which makes a huge difference. I love Rob Holding, he’s clearly committed to the cause, he’s trying to elevate his game, but watching Nottingham Forest give him all the time in the world on the ball because they saw that as a weakness was painful. We need Gabriel back yesterday, and someone needs to put Arteta in a video room to watch the progress of Saliba this season, because we are a pinged hamstring away from a very shoddy defence.
The Liverpool game away from home this Thursday now goes from a game where Charlie Patino might have played, to a full-on first 11 run out… because that game sets the tone for the Spurs game at the weekend. We can’t get walloped. We have to take at least a draw away. I’m still very angry that Liverpool are now saying that they had false positives in the camp. Arsenal were absolutely rolled on that cancellation because Liverpool didn’t want to play a form side with injuries. That is a corruption of the rules, signed off by an exLiverpool employee, and it is yet another example of Arsenal being played by the system. Why didn’t Vinai get Brentford cancelled?
Back to Arsenal. I wrote a week ago that we have to expect results like the Everton game. I can’t be reading the usual suspects say things like ‘Ugh, this always happens with Arteta’ like the hope was we’d just sail through the next 6 months winning games without the hiccups. This is the process people. The bumps are painful. But managers we dreamed of at other clubs are like Tuchel are also going through their own process issues, because Arsenal are close to them in the Premier League. If we beat Spurs, we’re 6 points off Chelsea. That’s your perspective.
If you want to see Charlie Patino at the carpet, you have to be prepared to see him struggle. That is part of the deal with young talents. Not everyone can land like Bukayo or Smith Rowe. He’ll learn, get stronger, and come back a better player.
We have to accept that it took 18 months to get a 15 that could fight at the highest level. Our second string is going to take even longer to get right. We’re not there yet. When you are second string, there are questions over attitude, technique, and overall suitability for the club. Cedric Soares isn’t built for Arsenal, Bukayo was telling him off for his hospital passes, he is a relic of ‘contacts’ scouting. But he’s our reality right now because Ains didn’t want to do his job.
I really want Eddie to be the one, but when you are asking Arsenal for big money, and you can’t be seen against Nottingham Forest, it’s hard to see how you deserve it. Another missed header from 5 yards that kills the game? That’s not good enough. He might score that at Palace, but he’s not doing it for Arsenal when he’s given minutes, and that’s the difference between Arsenal taking a chance or Arsenal letting the contract expire.
You also have to accept that Mikel Arteta is not the finished product. He pulled a move Conte and Jose have pulled for years. In fact, Conte pulled it this weekend, his team went off to boos at home against the Shrimps, which is the statement he wanted Levey to hear… then he smashed them in the 2nd half. The difference with experienced managers is they wouldn’t kill a path to an important objective they have. Arteta danced with the footballing gods and was struck by fire, I don’t think he mitigated risk last night, and the failure doesn’t strengthen his case for more money… it narrows it because now Josh has a weaker case when going to Daddy for Vlahovic money.
We have the chance to rectify things on Thursday. Let’s hope everyone is fit and we’re not gambling on long-term fitness. It’s a big week, Arteta just made it harder, let’s see how he can manage himself out of this corner.