So Much for a Title Defense as Arsenal are Knocked Out of the FA Cup
I had expected the manager to name a makeshift lineup with the ‘fringe’ players and expected them to do a job against a Championship mid-table outfit like Nottingham Forest. The lineup had a 3-4-3 outlook about it but it looked more like a back four with Matt Debuchy and AMN on the fullback positions while club captain, Per Mertesacker, and promising youngster, Rob Holding, played at the heart of the defense. Alex Iwobi was at the tip of a midfield that had Joe Willock and Mo Elneny while Danny Welbeck spearheaded the attack with Theo Walcott and Reiss Nelson on both flanks. This was like a typical Europa League squad and at the very least, I expected them to do enough to take the Gunners to the fourth round. Some expectation yeah.
The game itself was a horror show for the Gunners as they had all the possession and did zilch with it. It was actually the home side that had the better efforts on goal and it was no surprise when they took the lead from Eric Lichaj headed an indirect free kick from point blank range, leaving David Ospina stranded. Apparently, the defenders tried to keep him offside when they forgot that the defensive wall from the free kick kept him on. Arsenal pegged them back an equalizer from Mertesacker following a goalmouth scramble but getting the game level did nothing to improve the performance of Steve Bould’s side. It was actually Lichaj that put the home side ahead again with a well-taken volley at the edge of the area with Ospina rooted but you have to wonder how he was allowed to pick his spot and shoot without any pressure.
Imagine a Nottingham side that had failed to score in their last two games finding the net twice against Arsenal. Their 18-year-old forward, Ben Brereton was a constant thorn in the flesh of Mertesacker and Holding, getting the better of the supposed more experienced defenders on several occasions and Holding’s night changed form bad to worse when he conceded a needless penalty, allowing Brereton to show composure beyond his years and send Ospina the wrong way from the spot. Lichaj would have fancied to score a hat-trick from the spot kick as he revealed after the game that his wife promised him a dog if he netted a hat-trick. Coming from a guy that has never even scored a brace before in the Championship.
Arsenal reduced the deficit when Smith failed to handle the ball well, allowing Danny Welbeck to creep in and place the ball to an unguarded net with 12 minutes to spare. One would have expected an onslaught as Steve Bould sent it Norwich hero, Eddie Nketiah, and Chuba Akpom into the fray but as you’d expect from Arsenal, they just found a way to cock things up as Debuchy fouled ex-Gunner, Armand Traore, in the penalty box with Dowell scoring the penalty that sent the defensing champions crashing out with their tails in between their legs. There was some suspicion of double touch for Dowell’s penalty but that was dismissed by Jon Moss and the goal stood. Akpom had an effort late on but he tried to lob the keeper when using power would have been a better option.
Nowhere close to contention for the Premier League title, out of the top four, star players not signing contracts, have money to spend but certainly won’t, now out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle. Arsenal is in such a mess and sadly, the fans know that it can only get worse. The Europa League offers the Gunners their only change of silverware this season unless they want to turn up with an outstanding performance against Chelsea in the semifinals and potentially, Manchester City in the finals.
It’s really sad to see how poor our second string eleven is, and we got a glimpse of that in the Europa League this season, as they turned up well in some games and were pretty woeful to see the least in others. I’m in no mood to start singling out individual performances because I wouldn’t stop, but if these guys think they can come to the first team any time soon in the Premier League, then they must be joking. If they can’t prove their usefulness against a mid-table Championship side like Nottingham Forest, what use will they be to us when we play those extremely tough Premier League games. It’s also funny how none of the players that featured yesterday never complain about their consistent time on the bench because, putting it in simple terms, they are not good enough and I’m terribly ashamed of that lot.
With the FA Cup out of the way, all focus will go to Stamford Bridge as the Gunners prepare for their Carabao Cup semis and one can only wonder the kinda Arsenal that will turn up.
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