Writing after yesterdays match is a miserable task. Arsenal were woeful. In an entertaining match for the neutral, Nottingham Forest comfortably disposed of a second string Arsenal side, who showed little passion or courage on the way to humiliation. The defeat means Wenger breaks another record – the first occasion he’s been knocked out of the FA Cup Third Round. Tarnishing the legacy of his most recent success, whilst putting the season at high risk of capitulation.
Wenger’s team selection was disrespectful to Nottingham Forest, and rightfully riled up the out of form side and managerless opposition. To drop so many regulars from the line up was baffling. Of course, with our congested fixture list some rotation was expected but not to that extent. Selecting such a weak substitute was criminal given the starting line up, in the position Arsenal found themselves behind Steve Bould would’ve been scratching that bald head of his when looking at the bench. Nevertheless, prior to kick most Gooners would still have expected victory, given that a World Cup winner was in defence and over a hundred Arsenal goals were in attack.
For the first goal the defending was simply outrageous. To allow a player to run across the entire face of the box is shambolic, and once more questions Wenger’s ignorant approach to zonal marking and set piece defending. In truth Arsenal’s equaliser was fortunate, and Forest certainly deserved the half time lead following that second Lichaj goal. Still plenty of time to come back, a few stern words from Bouldy should shore up the defence, right?
Well not quite. 18 year Ben Brereton continued to bully Rob Holding and Per Mertesacker – who were both dreadful. Brereton of course was clinical from the penalty spot, leaving Arsenal with an uphill task to secure a replay at best. What seemed to be Welbeck’s only touch of the match installed brief hope before Forest were wrongly awarded both a penalty and goal. Arsenal’s defeat wasn’t due to the referee, but that is now the third match in a row were Arsenal have been on the wrong side of a key decision.
Only Reiss Nelson and Maitland-Niles (perhaps Welbeck) should be playing for Arsenal amongst the starting line up yesterday. None of the others should be Arsenal players. Even Nelson and Niles should be scrutinised – will they turn out to be Premier League standard players? In particular Theo Walcott can be singled out, who looked dejected – not a role model for the younger players. What makes it more humiliating is that Forest actually had a younger starting eleven, making it more unacceptable for Ospina, Mertesacker, Debuchy, El Neny, Walcott, Welbeck and Iwobi who are all relatively experienced top flight footballers. In the League Cup at home Arsenal could get away with that performance, but away at a proud club like Forest you absolutely have to show more desire.
Quite easily I could turn this into a several thousand word essay on Wenger, or a lengthy rant, but why? This type of performance isn’t a one off – Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday instantly spring to mind. For years Arsenal have stockpiled deadwood (Coquelin without ruthless trimming that it requires, leaving the squad with a vulnerable and fragile depth. Yet another humiliating defeat, the join the Liverpool thrashing earlier this season and add to the gloomy assembly of embarrassing Arsenal defeats since the move to the Emirates. Arsenal’s continued cycle of false hope and then shameful capitulation is tiring and dull.
So was Wenger saving the top guns for Chelsea? I doubt it. While a couple of bigger names will creep into the side it is most likely to be a similar line-up. With the Premier League far beyond reach, why would Wenger rest players for eleven days? For the line-up to become partially justified Arsenal must now get a good result at Chelsea in the League Cup, before a resounding victory at Bournemouth.
Following below par Christmas and New Year form, Arsenal’s crash out of the FA Cup leaves the season in high risk of disintegrating. If Arsenal lose to Chelsea significantly on Wednesday the season will depend on Europa League success, as its expected Arsenal’s league form will fade out into an unmemorable blur. In the coming days Arsenal could also lose Sanchez, adding greater misery and completing the inevitable cycle of an Arsenal player using the club as a stepping stone.
Lets hope Wednesday is more upbeat.
Men and Women of the Match: The 4000 travelling Arsenal fans – feel extremely sorry for those that travelled to watch that dire performance.