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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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Our FA Cup Title Defense Starts at Nottingham

Image result for lucas perez nottingham goal

Winning three FA Cups in the last four seasons is really one of the best feelings in life knowing that despite our usual consistent shortcomings in the Premier League, the FA Cup has offered the Gunners some solace and our lads then to turn up in style when we play in this competition. I still vividly remember celebrating the 2014 FA Cup in Bheerhugs, Ikeja City Mall that ended our long trophy drought for nine years. Emotions ran wild and the 250,000 fans attendance in the bus parade showed how much it meant to everyone.

Four years later, Arsene Wenger has added two more FA Cup trophies, taking Arsenal’s count in the competition to 13, much more than any other club. It’s also worth noting that Wenger is the competitions most successful manager. Good times, yeah.

Like every campaign, most Premier League teams start from the third round and we have already seen some unique results over the past two days. Liverpool’s 75 million quid man, Virgil van Dijk, earned a spot in the back pages when he headed in what proved to be the match winner in the FA Cup Merseyside derby. Romelu Lukaku returned from his scare injury to score the match clincher for Manchester United as Jesse Lingard continued his mean goalscoring streak. Then there was the imperious Manchester City that sent Burnley to the cleaners with their bamboozling style of attacking football that leaves no prisoners. There were also some interesting draws as Fleetwood Town held Leicester City to a stalemate, Bournemouth had to leave it late to salvage a draw against Wigan Athletic, while last season’s beaten finalists, Chelsea, could only muster a draw against Norwich in Carrow Road and earn themselves a replay at home. On a sad note, struggling Stoke City lost to Coventry City, adding to their wretched vein of form and it was too much for the owners to handle as Mark Hughes finally lost his job.

After several top half finishes in his four-and-a-half year spell in the club, things went awry for the manager and his side and we know how cruel and unforgiving this beautiful game can be. I guess I’d be seeing him on SuperSport Premier League MatchDay Live with the other failed coaches. Oh well.

Today’s opponents, Nottingham City, clashed with the Gunners last season in the Carabao Cup and were on the end of some lethal finishing from Lucas Perez. Shame things didn’t pan out so well for the Spaniard as he currently plies his trade in Deportivo de la Coruna. Nottingham is currently managed by Gary Brazil after Mark Warburton lost his job and the caretaker manager’s first game against Leeds United ended in a draw. They are currently 14th in the SkyBet Championship and while today’s clash against Arsenal offers a nice spectacle for the fans, they would be hoping for some improvement in the coming weeks as they search for a new manager. From an ex-Gunner perspective, Armand Traore would be looking to catch up with the lads from the team he spent the formative years of his career in.

It has been confirmed that Arsene Wenger will not be at the dugout for this game as he starts his three match ban from the FA, but the boss has confirmed that he will shuffle his pack ahead of the fixture,

“I will rotate a little bit because we have also come out of a very high-loaded period,” he said. “We played three big games in six days and twice we were away, followed by a big game at home.

“We have to keep our level of focus, of urgency, because the third round is very difficult especially when you play away from home against a Championship team.”

The Gunners would be without Nacho Monreal (ankle), Sead Kolasinac (ankle), Laurent Koscielny (Achilles), Granit Xhaka (groin) as well as the long term absentees, Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Olivier Giroud (hamstring) and Santi Cazorla (Achilles). With half an eye on the Carabao Cup semifinal against Chelsea, I’d expect the manager to feature the likes of David Ospina, Rob Holding, Per Mertesacker, Mo Salah Elneny, Francis Coquelin, Reiss Nelson, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott. I believe these guys would be good enough to do the job required of them.


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Time for the Fringe Players to Step Up Against the Lord

Nicklas Bendtner jumps to control the ball

We shift goal posts from the Premier League to the EFL Cup, as the Gunners visit the City Ground to take on Nottingham Forest. The EFL will always be fourth in Arsenal’s competition priority list, so it offers the fans the chance to see some players that haven’t featured for quite some time. With David Ospina confirmed as Arsenal’s Champions League goalkeeper, I can safety assume that Emiliano Martinez would be the custodian in goal tonight. Matt Debuchy managed to remain at the club when it seemed as if he was heading towards the exit door, so I’d expect Hector Bellerin to get a breather. Kieran Gibbs would definitely start ahead of Nacho Monreal and it would be nice to see everybody’s favorite new kid on the block, Rob Holding, feature again after such an impressive start to his Arsenal career.

In midfield, we would probably see a Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny combination, as both players haven’t seen as much game time as they’d have liked. Elneny is sure to leave the club in the winter to represent Egypt in the African Cup of Nations, but he’d want to be at optimal fitness levels for that tournament. Following his inconsistent performances in the side, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been rightly dropped out of the squad but he’d want to ensure he utilizes such a great opportunity to impress again, ahead of a perceived weaker opposition. Arsenal will do well not to underrate Nottingham Forest, especially when they were spanked by Sheffield Wednesday last season.

All eyes will be on the new signing, Lucas Perez, that hasn’t held down a first team berth yet, with Alexis Sanchez playing as a center forward. With Chelsea on the horizon, the Chilean would be given a breather and with Giroud still struggling with injury, it’s more than certain that Arsenal’s new #9 will spearhead the attack.

The Gunners are coming up against a Nottingham Forest side fresh from a home defeat to Norwich last weekend. Despite opening the scoring with Vellios, they dropped their guard in the second half and conceded two goals to the recently relegated Premier League side. Forest is currently 13th in the Championship, and will be hoping to push for a playoff spot come May.

This game also offers the Gunners a chance to lock horns with the likes of Henri Lansbury and the Lord himself, Nicklas Bendtner. The Dane has been on the news lately, stating that his ‘best striker in the world’ claims haunted him,

“So I’m going to make the best out of the rest of my career and do the best I can. There are many goals I have set myself over the years. Many things I have said and been killed for.

“I actually don’t regret saying I want to be the best striker in the world, because that’s what everyone wants. It’s just that no one wants to say it.

“It has haunted me.

“I was very young and I might have said it too early, before I’d proved I was in that category – or could get in that category.

“But I’m here now and I want to reboot, and get back to just playing.

Let’s see what happens after 90 minutes tonight.