The illness that Arsenal have been suffering from was called ‘fixture congestion’ and little did anyone know that Dr Wenger had the cure: field a weakened side in the FA Cup. Consequently, Wenger will have less fixtures to worry about now that Arsenal’s involvement in the FA Cup is over.
You would think that someone with as much experience winning the FA Cup would know that if you take liberties, especially away from home, you are likely to come a cropper. Before the Forest away tie, ex-Gunner Martin Keown remarked on how few regular first-teamers were involved.
However, whoever was playing would have been unlikely to have stopped the first goal. An unmarked player headed home from virtually the goal-line to set the ball rolling. Arsenal don’t generally do a lot of homework on opponents, especially if they are as lowly as Forest. Ultimately, goals like the first one conceded are the result of this managerial negligence. Obviously Arsenal believe they don’t need to mark man-for-man at setpieces, and the inevitable goal conceded from a free kick tells you how successful the club’s adoption of zonal marking is.
Mertesacker managed to equalise, after Holding’s header from Walcott’s free kick rebounded off the post, but Arsenal scarcely deserved parity. Even Maitland-Niles, who excelled against Chelsea, seemed over-arrogant and over-elaborate, nearly executing a Maradona turn but demonstrating a willingness to be too wasteful in possession. He was not alone in sacrificing the ball too easily. It was almost as if Arsenal desperately wanted to throw this game, so poor were they.
Just to make sure of the result, the referee got involved, awarding two penalties. The second penalty was hotly debated, as Debuchy made contact with the ball, albeit slightly from behind. The French right back appeared to hook his leg around, so you could argue that the tackle was not from behind. If that was so, then the penalty should not have been awarded.
When it was taken, a double touch from the taker should have meant a re-take. Since Wenger’s outburst, Arsenal cannot expect officials to side with them and they didn’t. After consulting the linesman or referee’s assistant, the goal was incorrectly awarded.
Before the second penalty, Welbeck had pulled a goal back for Arsenal, following a goalkeeping error. The England international never shirks and you have to give him credit for that.
The rest of the team didn’t emerge with much to shout about at all, except poor refereeing decisions. At one stage, Maitland-Niles clearly won a corner, but the referee decided otherwise. Arsenal are going to have to learn to accept these decisions, as they cannot change an official’s mind by acting petulantly. Unfortunately, the boss has been a poor role model for these young, impressionable players, who have all the swagger and confidence of top professionals, but lack the industry and humility of legends.
Elneny, who would do well to stop trolling Sanchez about the World Cup and focus on his own game, was guilty of not putting in a challenge for Forest’s second goal. The Egyptian ran towards the player and then suddenly stopped short, failing to close him down. A wonder goal conceded was the result. Surely more could have been done to prevent that strike.
In fact, the motto of the club should become ‘more could be done’. More could be done on the transfer front, but won’t be. More could be done on preparing dossiers on the opponents but won’t be, as Arsenal players are supposed to be a cut above. More could be done about grooming Wenger’s successor but won’t be, as the manager has no plans to quit. You can understand his passion, but it’s a shame that he cannot seem to adapt to the times. Anyway, at least he has less games to worry about now!