The FA Cup holders were were knocked out by Championship side, Nottingham Forest. Here’s what we extracted from the enthralling encounter.
For the first time in the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal have been knocked out of the FA Cup at the third round. The FA Cup holders were unceremoniously sent home by a team sitting 14th in the Championship. Nottingham Forest handed Arsene Wenger’s men only their second defeat in 24 FA Cup games, as they’ve won the tournament in three out of the past four seasons.
Two career-defining goals from Eric Lichaj, a Ben Brereton penalty and a second penalty scored by Kieran Dowell gave Nottingham Forest a famous win at the City Ground. The Reds are now the first lower division side to score 4+ goals against Arsenal in the FA Cup since Hull City in 1908, this just exemplifies the enormity of the result.
Here are the main talking points from the game at the City Ground.p
PerMertesacker’s retirement couldn’t come quick
The world cup winner may be retiring at the end of the season, but for most Arsenal fans, that may be too far away. Against a poor Championship side, Per Mertesacker was run ragged and looked way out his depth. It was a sad sight to watch, but a once competent defender was made to look inadequate at the City Ground.
The German has played 220 games for the Gunners but if this was his last, no Arsenal fan would shed a tear. Every time a ball was lofted over the top, the 33-year-old looked like a dear in the headlights, frantically stretching his long legs in the hope he could catch Ben Brereton. Against a team that’s scored 0 goals in their last 3 games, a defence led by Per Mertesacker conceded 4 goals while the German himself was dribbled past twice.
Reiss Nelson dive
In the first half, Arsenal were opened up and bruised by Nottingham Forest. So much so that David Ospina was the Gunners’ stand-out performer in the half. After shockingly going down 1-0 in the 20th minute, the Gunners needed only three minutes to level the game. However, the means to which the goal came through could be dubbed as dubious.
On the left-hand side of the box, Reiss Nelson attempted to take on two Nottingham Forest defenders. He succeeded in nutmegging one of them, but as he couldn’t get past, he proceeded to throw himself onto the floor. Per Mertesacker was able to score from the resulting free-kick taken by Theo Walcott.
Arsene Wenger fields a young starting XI
It’s usually only in the Carabao Cup that you see teams field a weakened XI, but today, Arsene Wenger had the boldness to make wholesale changes to his team. The Frenchman made 10 changes from the team that drew 2-2 with Chelsea at the Emirates. The likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Özil were given the night off with two crucial away games coming up in the near future.
The average age of the starting line-up was just over 24 years old, with Per Mertesacker being the oldest at 33 and Reiss Nelson being the youngest at 18 years of age. In the end, it was a gamble that backfired for the 68-year-old. His side played with a rare blend of inexperience and sluggishness, traits that can only be attributed to the selection. Arsenal concede TWO penalties
As Arsene Wenger sat in the stands in the first of his three-game touchline ban, John Moss proceeded to award 2 penalties against his Gunners side. The Frenchman made inflammatory comments about Mike Dean in relation to the wrongful penalty decisions he made against them at West Brom. The Gunners went on to concede another dodgy penalty in their next game against Chelsea, in which Eden Hazard was judged to have dived. Fast forward a few more days and Arsenal are in the midst of another penalty controversy.
In the 64th minute, Rob Holding rounded off a disaster class by inexplicably bringing down Matthew Cash. That’s not the penalty Arsenal fans will contest, it’s the second one that raised a few eyebrows. As Armand Traore charged forward after pouncing on a loose ball, he burst into the box and was tackled from behind by Mathieu Debuchy.
At first, it looked a clumsy challenge from the 32-year-old, but upon replay, it’s clear as day that the right-back got the ball first. Let’s not even get started on the fact the penalty taker seemingly touched the ball twice in the process of scoring.
Regardless, the penalty decision should not mask a sub-par performance from the Gunners.