Although the embarrassing surrender against Sheffield Wednesday signalled the end of our participation in this season’s Capital One Cup and amounted to our heaviest defeat against lower league opposition in fifty six years, bizarrely, numerous Arsenal supporters somehow found positives amongst the debris of our exit, however, as you may have already realised, I wasn’t one of them.
I have seen the starting line-up from midweek described as a youthful one but in truth, any side made up largely from full internationals who share close to three hundred caps between them and also includes five players aged twenty nine or over, is not one that is bereft of experience and it is evident that a major factor in our defeat was the clear lack of motivation or desire on display, with the senior members of the side looking particularly disinterested and when will we ever learn to defend against aerial balls into the box?
A lot of discussion has taken place over the past few days regarding the two injuries sustained early in the tie, firstly by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and then his replacement Theo Walcott, with one supporter stating that he genuinely believed it was all part of Wenger’s master plan to keep his players fresh without drawing too much criticism from supporters and the media, an amusing theory until the duo’s absence from our next three fixtures was confirmed and whilst Chamberlain’s injury was down to bad luck, it’s questionable whether Walcott’s could have been avoided had his warm up not been cut short by Arsene, much to Theo’s own bemusement.
It could of course be argued that had Walcott felt strongly enough about his lack of warm up time, it was his responsibility to inform the manager that he required another five to ten minutes in order to physically prepare himself before entering the field of play but can you imagine the outcry had he publicly defied his managers instructions and left his teammates to battle on with a numerical disadvantage in his absence, especially if the opposition had scored whilst he continued to stretch his legs on the sidelines, after all, we all know how some Arsenal supporters love a scapegoat, on this occasion perhaps we should give both the manager and the player the benefit of doubt.
Whilst the League Cup is fourth on our list of priorities, I don’t necessarily buy into our elimination being a blessing, especially when the last two winners of the competition have also gone on to win the league title and for Wenger to state that he knew none of the youngsters involved were ready to play at that level, it begs the question, why were they thrown in at the deep end and although some consider it a worthwhile sacrifice in our quest for the title, I personally ponder the possible negative impact on the development of those youngsters who were prematurely exposed, although at least Krystian Bielik showed signs of promise following his introduction.
Another criticism aimed in the manager’s direction is the number of players that we currently have out on loan who are higher up the pecking order than either Glen Kamara or Ismael Bennacer, although I accept that it’s a difficult balancing act to ensure we have enough depth in the squad to compensate for our annual spate of injuries that we regularly sustain in the same position, at present it’s our midfield being depleted, and providing the youngsters with a platform to develop elsewhere by playing first team football, would Chuba Akpom really learn and develop more from from kicking his heels in the background at his parent club than he is by being regularly involved during his season long loan at Hull City?
With the form we had been in previously, any defeat was always likely to feel like a hammer blow and losing by three goals to a Championship side is as bad as it gets, I hope at least, so let’s wait to see if a refreshed Arsenal can bounce back this weekend against Swansea, we have the ability, I just hope we have the desire….