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So Much for a Title Defense as Arsenal are Knocked Out of the FA Cup

 

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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.

Sayonara.

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The Morning After that Disappointing Cup Exit

Arsenal players rue missed chance

For a season that promised so much, things are looking rather bleak for Arsene Wenger and his team. After so much unnecessary talk of how the players held some top secret closed doors meeting where nuclear launch codes were shared among the lads, it was back to the same feeling of frustration and despair as Arsenal allowed Watford to come to the Emirates and leave with a victory – a game the Gunners dominated from start to finish. We all know possession of the ball isn’t enough – it’s what you do with it that matters.

There were the missed chances, as you expect from a pathetic profligate team like Arsenal. Mohamed Elneny was culpable for the kind of misses we the fans usually throw abuses on Aaron Ramsey. Then there was the goal from Olivier Giroud that was rightly ruled offside. Could he have timed his run better? Of course, yes! With more missed chances I feared that the visitors would show the Gunners how to finish and sadly, I was right. Odion Ighalo used his strength to shove off Gabriel before placing the ball past David Ospina. Its moments like that they showed how important Laurent Koscielny is to the team because I would have been confident that he would not allow a forward bully him like that, inside his box.

After waiting for Wenger to find a replacement for Thomas Vermaelen, Gabriel Paulista has shown that he has a lot to learn and it’s unfortunate to see how his naivety is costing us games. Not like I’m a fan of the blame game but there have been games were better basic defending from a better defender would have been enough to quell a lot of attacking threats. He may grow in strength to become an Alessandro Nesta or something in the future but at this moment, he’s looking more like a liability than an asset.

With the Gunners chasing the game, Watford hit them on the break and I wondered where everybody was when Guerdiora was allowed to pick his spot to send a piledriver through Ospina into the net. A part of me feels that the Colombian shot stopper could have done better but with the Gunners trailing with two goals, I knew the game was over.

Wenger ‘responded’ with three substitutions of Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi and Theo Walcott. Two of the three made their presence felt in the game, while Walcott proved yet again to be a waste of a substitution. Welbeck huffed and puffed but finally made his mark when he latched onto a brilliant back heeled pass from Mesut Ozil to side-foot the ball home. Iwobi and his Fransceco Totti-esque socks showed great movement and confidence with the ball. His moment of glory almost arrived when he fired a shot that hit the post and ricocheted off the goalie but Welbeck’s rebound was poor to say the least.

At the end, it was Watford that went to the semis and the Gunners are set for more misery with the fact that Tottenham are closing the gap on Leicester with another win over relegation-bound Aston Villa. Everyone will be waiting for Rafa Benitez to work his magic on Newcastle as they take on Leicester tonight but one wonders where the Gunners will go from here.

I like Arsene Wenger and everything he has done for this great club but I’m really scared for him right now. The team has become so impotent in front of goal, especially at the Emirates, and so many players are underperforming below what they are usually capable of.

I am filled with sadness today but as an Arsenal supporter, I must keep the faith that something, could still happen in the Premier League. I have already written off our chances in the Champions League because of the sheer brilliance of FC Barcelona but as long as it is still mathematically possible to win the Premier League, I will not give up hope.

Sayonara.

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Gunners Demolish the Tigers at a Great Cost

The France international does the 'rocking baby' celebration with team-mates following the birth of his son on Monday night

Hull 0-4 Arsenal

Match ReportMatch Highlights Post-Match Press Conference

With the Gunners failing to do the job at home, they were afforded another chance to make things right against Hull and with the team such in a wretched run of form, it was a welcome game. Arsene Wenger had confirmed that he would rotate his squad and he was true to his word with the likes of Calum Chambers, Mathieu Flamini, Alex Iwobi, Joel Campbell, Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud all returning to the side. Many believed that it was a game for Giroud and Walcott to make their marks because from the look of things, they have been usurped from the center forward berth by Danny Welbeck.

The game had a dull feel early with David Ospina showing good reactions to make a double save to spark the game into life. However, Arsenal suffered their first casualty of the night when Per Mertesacker and Nick Powell clashed heads and the BFG came out second best, suffering a laceration on his eye. A couple of treatment from Gary O’Driscoll, the captain signaled to the bench that his time was up and he was replaced by Nacho Monreal, a player just returning from a knock of his own.

The match opener arrived when Giroud latched onto a mistake by David Meyler and he did well to send the ball through Eldin Jakupovic’s legs to put the Gunners ahead. It was also a personal milestone for the French striker that had been in a lengthy goal drought but he was motivated by the birth of his son, Evan.

At the start of the second half it was business as usual but there was another cause for concern when Gabriel Paulista suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury, forcing the manager to summon Aaron Ramsey. With Ramsey arriving on the pitch, Chambers was drafted back to his favored  enter back role, with Flamini playing as an auxiliary right back. Arsenal’s second goal was scored by another player in dire need of them and the Walcott of old was on show as he kept his composure to receive Campbell’s brilliant pass before side footing the ball home.

After spending just 16 minutes on the pitch, Ramsey signified to the bench that he had suffered an injury too, forcing Wenger to make the final substitution of the night, as Jeff Reine-Adelaide made a cameo appearance. Arsenal scored their third when Giroud reacted quickly to Walcott’s cross and he used his right foot to flash the ball past Jakupovic to put the game beyond doubt. Walcott added the icing on the cake when a shot that beat the goalie in his near post.

After his goalkeeping heroics at the Emirates, Jakupovic was brought back down to Earth as he was on the end of some battering by Arsene Wenger’s men. The gaffer provided some updates on the injury-stricken players in his press conference,

“Mertesacker is just a cut on his eye and looks to be very short. Gabriel is a hamstring and Ramsey is a thigh problem. To me, the most serious looks to be Ramsey. He has a thigh problem, I think it is a thigh strain.”

Per Mertesacker

With a cut on his eye, Mertesacker can be patched up and ready to lead the team out on Sunday when the Gunners host Watford but Gabriel’s hamstring injury can see him sidelined for a couple of weeks. Ramsey’s thigh strain is a problem because I remember how it kept him out for close to four months in the 2013/14 season. Injuries always pave the way for other to make their marks and with Laurent Koscielny still struggling for fitness, I expect Chambers to play alongside the BFG on Sunday while the medical team would be sweating to get the French defender fit for the Barcelona game. Ramsey’s injury will afford Mohamed Elneny a chance to get an extended run-out in the team and I’m hoping these injuries come to a halt.

It was a wonderful win for the team but it came at a great cost.

Sayonara.

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