Nottingham Forest 4 – 2 Arsenal
In an ideal world, we’d be sitting here agreeing that the team performance was the reason that we lost. And it was; poor officiating just made the margin of defeat wider. By one goal.
I thought the first penalty was a foul and nothing I’ve seen since has changed my mind. There was a clip which purported to show no contact but it just made it more certain in my mind that Holding clipped the Forest player’s knee. David Ospina proved no more adept at saving penalties that Petr Cech.
Had the second penalty not been double-kicked, he might have got close to it. I’m not quite sure why Moss ran to his lino to speak about it since the referee was facing the kick with an unobscured view. Everyone knew the ball deflected against Dowell’s standing foot, you could see the way the ball travelled. Moss didn’t.
I could see why the penalty was given. Debuchy definitely got the ball but I’m not convinced he took the man beforehand. Plenty are; would the VAR make any difference? Would we be any more sure?
So there you have it, I’ve put straws out there for you to grasp onto. Grab away, if you so wish. I’ll carry on with my own views of where we went wrong.
To be honest, it’s hard to fault Wenger’s team selection in principle. For years he’s been fielding a second string XI in cup competitions and beaten many lower league sides. We’ve muddled through in some instances but we got through. Why think yesterday would be any different?
Well, it turned out that yesterday was different. We lost and it was the senior pros where culpability lies. They weren’t up to the task in front of them.
Just A Shadow
That doesn’t absolve Arsène of his responsibility for the farce; he selected the XI. However, the team’s performance was abject. Defensively disorganised, slow, a non-existent midfield with a blunt attack.
Forest’s opening goal perfectly highlighted the issue. Ospina positioned the wall to cover the near post but the defensive line stood further away from the goal, inviting Forest to attack the ball with no fear of offside. Why were we even trying to play offside so close to our goal? Surely an experienced defender like Mertesacker knew that?
The home side targeted the BFG’s lack of pace and Brereton was Brer Rabbit when it came to Mertesacker, running the defender ragged. And promptly did the same with Holding when he popped up to mark him. Little wonder Arsenal are reportedly back in for Jonny Evans. To be honest, if he signed, Per really ought to start his Academy role straight away. We’re at that stage.
Maybe we’ll remember the equaliser more than the defending. In fact, I hope we remember the 2017 FA Cup final more than anything else.
I don’t know where to begin with Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi. The downward spiral with the former is too far travelled but the later? There were suggestions of a loan spell “to learn the game” and his recent performances really do make that something to seriously consider.
Walcott is a shadow of the player he once was. Leaden touch, his afternoon summed up toward the end of the game when the ball tantalising reached the by-line just as Theo caught it, sending it into the side-netting from an angle which was impossible to score from.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player so desperately in need of a move to resurrect his career.
Flawed Thinking, Radical Solution
While I could go through players individually and pick faults, too many are being thrown under a bus by the manager. Only Maitland-Niles plays regularly, the rest occasionally off the bench and it’s so evident that the XI doesn’t play together on a regular basis, not even in training. Why would you expect that kind of thinking to work? Why?
But you can expect them to play a damn sight better than they did.
Ultimately, the flaw in heavy rotation was exposed as was the folly of reverting to a back four. Mertesacker doesn’t have the pace to play a high line nor does Holding have the nous to cover the BFG’s lack of pace. Nor the confidence; you can see that being slowly crushed from the young lad.
Perhaps the biggest weakness was Wenger’s decision to have no Plan B on the bench. There was no experience to dig us out of a hole, there was no-one to strike fear into Forest as they limbered up. Nothing and no-one to begin a fight back.
After the game, BT Sport ran an interesting documentary based on Michael Calvin’s book No Hunger In Paradise. Arsène was on and as expected made some good points. But it struck me that the film, about youth development, put him into his perfect role now. Developing young players.
The modern game is ruthlessly exposing the flaws in his thinking. We’re dropping further out of Premier League contention and I’d argue that if we’re not already at that point, stopping Arsène investing in new signings this winter and then replacing him next summer is the ideal solution.
The thinking in football terms at the club is so broken, the squad so thin on talent, that a radical change must happen.