Doncaster Review: League Cup Dies Death Of A Thousand Misses

Arsenal 1 – 0 Doncaster Rovers

The worst football match I’ve yet seen came during the mid-80s when Birmingham City visited Highbury. David Seaman was in goal for the visitors and it finished 0 – 0. Last night’s second half is right up there with that, saved by Doncaster hitting the bar and Walcott missing a sitter.

Post-match, Arsène felt we started well but lost cohesion after the opening twenty-five minutes. It wasn’t so much as losing our way as getting the map out only to find we’d left our reading glasses at home. We stumbled, fumbled and were almost humbled when Rovers hit the bar.

Theo Walcott went from hero to zero during his hour or so on the pitch, and was unhappy at being substituted. A well-taken finish from Alexis beautifully weighted pass and then a sitter missed shortly before he exited, stage right.

It might have been a different story had Giroud’s overhead kick not thundered onto the bar, or if he’d kept his header lower. Up to the point Theo scored, it was a night proceeding to plan; largely encamped in and around the Doncaster box, offering the visitors few opportunities to escape the incessant pressure.

Then it went to pot. Hardly surprising when you ring the changes to give youth a chance and then play youth out of position. If you thought two left-backs in the centre was peak Wenger banter, Nelson at right wing-back and Maitland-Niles on the left is right up there with it.

It’s an issue because the first team is playing a formation for which the squad is ill-equipped. I understand the logic of making all teams play the same way; the path to the first team is less fraught in those circumstances. However, when the squad is built to a 4-2-3-1 template, the weaknesses are soon highlighted quicker than the bookmakers change their odds in the Cox Plate Betting.

They Couldn’t Prevent Jack From Feeling Happy

The one beam of light, a ray of hope was Jack Wilshere’s first ninety minutes in an Arsenal shirt since the Emirates opened, or at least that’s how it feels. A spritely opening, followed by an hour of good work prompting and inspiring; the drop off in energy was to be expected but a good performance overall.

Per Mertesacker was upbeat about Wilshere afterwards,

“It was very good to have him back out there.

“You can see that he’s getting more comfortable with his position now. He’s brave now and he trusts his body. That’s the most important thing, that he’s capable of playing 90 minutes.”

Wenger agreed about getting Wilshere match fit. I wouldn’t expect him to take Ramsey’s place in the Premier League or Özil’s for that matter but the option is there as cover for injuries and cup matches. And I do expect the German to suffer more injuries as the season goes on; we’ve been here before with other players in similar circumstances.

Alexis seems to be in the same boat. Left out at Chelsea, Wenger claimed it’s down to fitness issues. It’s funny but he seemed fine when playing for Chile a couple of weeks ago. Maybe our standards are more exacting? I’ll be generous; this is the manager preparing the team for a January sale as opposed to punishing the player for wanting to leave. Whatever the case, I’d expect him to replace Danny Welbeck in the starting line-up on Monday rather than Alex Iwobi.

The rumour mill already has Yoolian Draxler arriving to replace him, Raheem Sterling too. But not Karim Benzema; he’s signed a new deal with Real Madrid and remains in the ‘Almost Signed XI’. The longest running pantomime is still selling tickets.

Happy Jack Wasn’t Old But He Was A Man

The object of the exercise was to win but the manner of victory is hardly likely to entice big crowds to these matches. We’re not quite thinking about moving them to Borehamwood but something needs to give the competition. United’s crowd was 20,000 below capacity, ours the same and despite claims to the contrary, I’d be amazed if Spurs attracted more than 20,000 to Wembley.

Suffice to say, it’s not popular with the home fans of the big clubs. With the pricing as it is, would lower division clubs benefit more financially from hosting these fixtures at home? Maybe the rules ought to change to force Premier League clubs to play their ties away from home if drawn against clubs from the Championship and below?

I don’t know but some life needs to be breathed into the League Cup; it’s no more than the EFL Trophy to the top clubs. All things must come to an end and we feel like we’re hammering more nails into the coffin lid with every passing season.

Last night’s reward? A home tie against Norwich who will frankly be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of facing that XI after last night’s performance. Still, we won and that’s all that matters in the League Cup at the end of the day.

’til Tomorrow.

26 thoughts on “Doncaster Review: League Cup Dies Death Of A Thousand Misses

  1. I have been a long time advocate of the big clubs playing away from home against lower league competition – cannot see the powers that be ever doing something so interesting though. The short-sighted nature of the money-grabbing teams at the top is so inherent and totalitarian that they would assuredly quash any such romantic notion before it had even had the chance to gestate.
    You joke about it being Jack’s first full game at the Emirates – I’d be intrigued to know how many he has actually played. It’s not many, is it? 🙁

  2. Jonny,

    The gate money small clubs get from a match at The Emirates, Old Trafford etc. Is far greater than they can get at their own tiny grounds and they don’t have the match day expenses for policing and so on.

  3. Jonny,

    There is of course the corollary that whilst it’s more beneficial for the small clubs their fans have to take time off from work (midweek games) pay travelling costs and buy expensive tickets as well as overpriced food and drink.

    As you say, it’s just not practical.

  4. Orson

    With virtually all the big clubs reducing the price of League Cup tickets, is this necessarily true?

    > The gate money small clubs get from a match at The Emirates, Old Trafford etc. Is far greater …

    Doncaster’s Keepmoat holds 15,231. At full price, compared to our £10, £5, is their revenue share going to be bigger than that which they took from last night? I don’t know.

  5. Great post Yogi.

    We won which is all that matters. Theo had a well taken goal and not many players could have taken that ball down and scored. Full credit to him because without that the game most likely ends in a 0-0 draw. Theo’s ability to score is the only part of his skill set that keeps him in the top flight of football. Give Theo finishing ability similar to Danny Welbeck and Theo would probably be playing in the championship or below. Fortunately for Theo finishing is the single most difficult skill in all of football to master and the single most important skill and because of that Theo has made more money then almost any of us could dream of while playing a game.

  6. Jonny,

    The game last night was the first time Jack has played 90 minutes for us in over 3 years.

    Injuries and loans have blighted his Arsenal career — and I suspect he will be off in January.
    If I were his manager I would advise him to hold on until the end of June — get the fee Arsenal would have had for selling him – maybe £15m – and then a nice salary package too.

    If he stays, he would get a decent salary package from Arsenal, despite his injury prone bones – but not the £15m. [Actually – I’m not sure Arsenal do want him]

    Incidentally, I think your suggestion about sharing the match booty by forcing Premiership clubs to play at the grounds of the minnows would not fail on the grounds of practicality — when was that a key criterion in the mad world of football? — But YW has it right – the small clubs would probably make more from their share of the receipts at the vastly bigger Premier club’ grounds, and in addition, the extra policing and increased security [à la Köln] would become a serious additional cost factor at their own tiny grounds.

  7. I understand the concern about playing Nelson and Maitland-Niles at wingback which is not their favored positions. However Walcott and Sanchez play Nelson’s best position and both needed minutes and without them we probably would not have won. Elneny/Wilshere play central mid which is Maitland-Niles best position and they also need minutes. The only position which we did not have a senior player who needed minutes was right and left wing back. Nelson and AMN look to be top of the pecking order from our group of U21’s this season and in order to get them into the game we had to use them at wing back. Kolasinac and Bellerin do not need minutes and who else was going to play wingback?

  8. Morning All,

    It was a weird match to watch because it seemed some of the players were looking to more entertain than take it seriously but others were playing and without a ton of pressure on the ball played well but then as the match drew on things went sideways and Doncaster actually looked more likely to score.

    Yea Maitland-Niles played out of position but I have to say he was constantly putting out fires and early in the match was constantly looking to get beyond Sanchez and play in crosses. The one thing that is clear with him whether he makes it at Arsenal or not is that he is a good reader of the game and isn’t afraid to mix it up but has the pace and quickness to recover. I also enjoyed watching Jack and Elneny who both strutted around spraying passes and trying to make things happen. If Jack is able to build on this both in match sharpness and fitness I would let them be the starting pivots for all Cup matches including the Europa since its clear Xhaka and Ramsey are Arsene’s (not mine) first chioce.

    Full marks to Doncaster though because they looked a menace in the 2nd half and weren’t that far away from scoring their goals.

  9. I will say if there was one negative about the match it was actually Giroud and I’m not just picking on him but he truly looked like he wanted to entertain instead of being a professional. Yea his overhead kick was sublime skill but outside of that it was full of him flopping around on the ground, being static and trying flicks that never came off and often times weren’t even close to another Arsenal player.

    The Cups and the Europa are his chance to stake his claim for more match time and thus far it has been underwhelming.

  10. Arsene on Jack and a contract:

    “It is down to the fact – and I have said this many times – that he can remain fit or not,” Wenger said of Wilshere’s future.

    “He’s an Arsenal man and an Arsenal player.

    “He would certainly like to stay but we haven’t spoken about that because at the start of the season I thought we had to see how it evolves and see what kind of influence he can have in the squad through the whole season.”

  11. If Nelson and Main-land NIles are really ready to be playing first team minutes wouldn’t it be better for them to be playing regularly in their favored positions on loan rather then waiting around to get a few minutes here and there with Arsenal when they end up playing out of position.

  12. Arsene on Sanchez:

    “No (I’ve not left him out on purpose), not at all, that’s going into quick conclusions,” Wenger said.

    “Alexis Sanchez has been out and injured, I thought he was short on Sunday [Chelsea] physically.

    “I played him last night to give him more competition.

    “Look, there’s no disguised attitude on my side. I just try to get him back to full fitness.

    “The Europa League and League Cup is important, I try to give him competition and get him back to his best.

    “I gave him a long holiday. He came back not very fit, then he got injured. The injury plus the rest was a bit long.

    “I left him on the pitch for 90 minutes so he could have a real go.

    “All the players are [in my plans] he’s not more than any other.

    “Sanchez could have played [against Chelsea] if he was 100% fit at the start.

    “In one game I go with three strikers, the three that don’t play will play midweek, no matter the competition.”

    The last line will be interesting given Welbeck is injured so will he finally go with Sanchez/Lacazette/Ozil which I think could really give us a boost and push this team.

  13. Bill,

    Normally I would say yes but I think they will both start regularly in the League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League and we will need them especially MAitland-Niles given Le Coq is already injured and both Ramsey and Jack’s injury record shows that they can’t be trusted to make it through a full season. So keeping them and playing them regularly in the cups and then featuring for the U23’s as well will help their development.

    You have to remember that Nelson is ONLY 17 years old and turns 18 in December while Maitland-Niles is ONLY 20 (just turned 20 in August) so they are still really young players that are still developing and featuring regularly for the U23’s as well as regularly in the Cups just makes sense. I would imagine that both of them will be sent on loan possibly to a PL side next season.

  14. C

    Fair enough. Maitland-Niles might be needed on the first team if we have an injury crisis. If Nelson is only 17 and he is to young to go on loan then why in the world are we trying to rush him into the first team because he surely can’t be ready for that.

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