Monday, 8 January 2018

Arsenal Can’t See The Wood For The Trees As They Lose To Forest

In a season where Manchester City have being breaking records by the week it’s good to see they’re not the only ones. Arsenal have managed to break a record or two of their own as well, but they’re not the sort of records they want to break. If you start at the end of last season we have achieved our worst league position under Arsene Wenger, gone out of the FA Cup in the third round for the first time under him and conceded four FA Cup goals to a team outside the top flight for the first time in over 100 years. They’re not the sort of records you want to set, but as the rot sets further and further in they could easily be added to this season.

The manager made wholesale changes from the 2-2 draw with Chelsea as I predicted in my match preview, but the failure to have any of our top class players on the bench was a mistake. I thought they might be needed to save the game late on or to press home an advantage, but the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette all got the day off. In the end they might have been able to come on and save us, but I doubt it given the defensive performance on the day.

For the first Forest goal I’m still trying to understand how the defence tried to play offside on the six yard line when a two man wall were four yards behind them at the side of the box. A Forest player took advantage of our generosity to head past Ospina, but you also had to question why Ospina didn’t move towards the ball. It was a defensive error a schoolboy team would be embarrassed by and the team we put out had seven full internationals on display.

We equalised very soon afterwards when Per Mertesacker poked home after a Rob Holding header from a Theo Walcott free kick hit the post. I hoped we would wake up and dominate the game after that, but we created virtually nothing despite having the majority of the possession. Forest pressed us on the ball in our own half and we continued to cough it up and give them chance after chance only for Ospina to rescue us.

Forest regained the lead shortly before half time when the same player who scored the first goal planted a shot beautifully in the top corner. The defensive header from Rob Holding which fell to him left a lot to be desired as did the speed of those trying to close him down, but it was an excellent finish. We still had all of the second half to try to get back into the game, but things only got worse after the break.

With 20 minutes of that second half gone they increased their lead to 3-1 when Holding was later than a 46A bus in rush hour to bring one of their players down. That would have been the time to bring the big guns on, but they were probably out shopping with their better halves. We did pull one back when Danny Welbeck took advantage of a slip by their keeper with a little over 10 minutes to go.

Any hopes of a grandstand finish disappeared when Armand Traore ghosted past our defence and was taken down from behind by Mathieu Debuchy for another penalty. There was some talk of it not being a penalty, but it was a tackle from behind and I thought Debuchy made contact with the man before the ball. He could easily have seen red for denying a goal scoring opportunity, but the referee only gave him a yellow card.

Penalty decisions haven’t exactly gone our way recently and the manner in which this one was despatched didn’t do us any favours. The Forest player slipped as he went to take it and the ball hit the foot that slipped after he had kicked it with the other foot which was definitely double contact and the goal should have been disallowed. The referee consulted with his assistant, but they gave the goal which I assume means they didn’t spot it.

We had one last chance before the four added minutes were over, but the keeper saved well from Chuba Akpom with three added minutes still to go. I’m not quite sure how the referee only added four minutes considering all the substitutes and the amount of time lost to the decisions on the second penalty. That’s only a small complaint though and it shouldn’t take from a very good Forest performance and a fully deserved victory for them.

It was yet another low in a season littered with them for Arsenal and again it was down to the manager. We luckily scraped through against Doncaster and Norwich in earlier rounds with a similar team and it was only a mater of time before we were found out. It took a team without a manager and with an awful defensive record in the bottom half of the Championship to do it, but it was coming for our cup team.

I can only presume the first team regulars were left out because they will be called upon in the Carabao Cup semi final first leg at Chelsea on Wednesday night. Playing a similar team to yesterday at Chelsea would be an awful move and it could end in a very embarrassing result for us. It would mean those players will have to play four games in two weeks if that’s the case with a second leg against Chelsea to come as well as league games.

Where to start with yesterday is almost impossible to figure out, but it has to be obvious to one and all that a change of manager has to be the first step. It’s just not working for the manager any more and it’s got worse and not better since he extended his contract. We’re lurching from one crisis to another with the worst ones possibly to come still. 

There doesn’t seem to be a person at the club who can coach the players in their defensive duties and players contracts have been allowed to reach the stage where they can leave for free or attempt to hold the club to ransom. If the rumours are true Alexis could be off to City shortly at a fraction of his true market value and we will struggle to score enough goals to offset our awful defending without him if he goes. What top class player would want to join a club in such disarray and yet we need to make so many signings as soon as possible.

It’s not a good time to be an Arsenal fan for so many reasons and it looks like getting even worse. I’ve been through worse, but we weren’t the sixth richest club in the world then and that’s probably what makes it so unacceptable to so many fans. We are boxing so far below our weight that it’s not even funny and there doesn’t seem to be even a semblance of a plan to improve our lot.

That’s it for today.

See you tomorrow.

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