Thank goodness that is over, but at what cost?

By Tony Attwood

Last night was a pretty horrible occasion with injuries some very nasty tackles, and the infinitely more important issues like the Premier League and the possibility of a 3rd consecutive FA Cup on everyone’s mind.

Clubs are not allowed to opt out of the League Cup, and the option of putting out a total youth team against a team like Sheffield W is not a viable option, since they don’t have the training to deal with that type of aggressive playing and tackling (as opposed to high speed skill), which you see in the lower leagues.

And let us not be churlish – as Mr Wenger said, the level of skill and ability that we see in parts of the Premier League is drifting down into the championship sides.  The quality is higher than ten years ago.

Certainly once the Wednesday player was only given a yellow for what even the Sky commentator said was most certainly a thoroughly dangerous sending off offence, the Arsenal players knew the season-ending dangers they were in if they chased too hard.  So they really didn’t want to make much of it.  It was quite a reasonable decision.

But that meant, assuming that Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo are seriously injured, we once again lost senior players on a meaningless competition.   From having an injury list that we could cope with, this is now looking more and more serious.

Sky’s coverage was fairly awful too.  As the Arsenal away fans kept up a terrific long term chant of “We love you Arsenal” (the shortage of away tickets meaning there is no chance of the aaa infiltrating the crowd) the camera managed to find one miserable looking old guy and then cue the commentary on the silencing of the Arsenal fans.   No comment then about how much more it once again cost the fans who went, compared with the £10 entry fee it would have cost had it played at the Emirates.  No comment on the wonderful support.

But then if the story doesn’t fit the agenda, it doesn’t get mentioned.

Certainly we can’t these days put out a kids team like we used to, because they won’t have the balance to deal with this sort of treatment, but the hybrid teams we put out don’t seem to work very well either.  Of course we needed to put out a solid team against Tottenham, because it was against Tottenham, but just think how much better this week would have been without any midweek game to play.

Four games in ten days is crazy – there must be a way of reducing this.  Could we just refuse to play, and take the fine?   That might be cheaper in terms of the cost of losing players.

However none of this affects our position in the League, and as Tottenham once famously said one autumn when they were trying to sell the club, “We are still in the FA Cup.”   And you never know what might happen in the Champs League.

Chelsea played extra time, and I suppose that for them the best they could hope for is a run in one of the cups.  They lost on penalties.  Everton also played extra time although of course they don’t have the European games to play as Chelsea and Arsenal do.

But somehow, one way or another, we need to work out a way to exit the league cup quickly without suffering serious injuries en route.  Trouble is I don’t quite know how we can do it.

A very gracious interview from Arsene Wenger afterwards, and saying that he did the right thing to leave the six players at home.   But as he said, we are now short of players.  “It is a big blow for us… to lose players of that stature.”

But he also said that none of the youngsters were ready to play at this level – a rare negative comment on Arsenal players from the manager.   I wonder what that means for their futures… get rid of them or give them more time?

Certainly as a club we can and do give players time – just look at Coquelin and Bellerin.  So I do hope that this is not a farewell for any of those players.  Although Campbell had the opportunity to shine, and should have made more of it.  That might have been his final chance.  When Mr Wenger has had enough, that’s that.

But let’s finish on that positive.  Arsenal did leave six first teamers at home, so they have had a day off and no chance of injury.  (No news from Arsene on the seriousness of the injury to Theo and the Ox – let’s hope it is not too bad.)

From the archives

  • 28 October 1893: Arsenal conceded 15 goals in three consecutive games losing 0-5 at home to Liverpool.  It was Arsenal’s worst defeat at home equalled only in special circumstances on 14 February 1925 in the game against Huddersfield.
  • 28 October 1912: Arsenal reserves lost their 100% record, two of the reserve players were suspended by the FA for playing Sunday football, and the London press retreated on their suggestion that Arsenal was moving to Harringey.


36 Replies to “Thank goodness that is over, but at what cost?”

  1. I thought it did seem a little harsh from Wenger after the game saying they were not ready, but given what had just transpired he could have meant it in that he didn’t have much choice but to play them, given the mounting injury list/general squad depth.
    I think Kamara and Iwobi really needed Flamini to put in a solid performance alongside them but he was nowhere to be seen unfortunately, except when misplacing a pass or two… Oh well, hopefully we can regain some momentum at the weekend!

  2. I thought that most youngsters were scared or looked scared. Apart from Iwobi and Bielik later on. Their frame was also not strong enough for the roughness from the Sheffield players.
    In a way it was a good learning session for these youngster to understand what is needed to step up to the next level.
    I don’t think Wenger meant it as being really negative for the youngsters. It was just saying what we all had seen. Now I love the kids and our young players a lot but not one of them will get a starting place for now unless we are hit by another injury wave in the next days.
    It is not that a player is not ready now that they will not make it. It is just a message to these kids that they will need to work harder and improve a lot to make it.

  3. I liked the look of Bielik as he gave the team shape when he came on as well as drive forward, which didn’t happen in the first half. His cross for Mertesacker was good too. Iwoboi and Kamara was not totally out of their depth and it was an opportunity to get used to some of the rough stuff, so in that way the experience gained is valuable. Lets enjoy the fact that we saw some of the youngsters and that the game was played.

  4. Hopefully Walcott and Ox would have recovered by the we .I dread if both go missing against BM with Robben back.I know one guy doesn’t make a team but he is wc and is bound to have an impact.
    BM aint unbeatable as the gunners have shown.The thing is with Robben cutting from the wing BM could have plenty of chances to score. As shown in the SW defeat,the gunners were found wanting when the latter scored from a pass from the wing.
    I aint no soccer coach but if Robben aint shackled by Ballerina and another gunner,Arsenal could be in serious trouble.

  5. Dear old Arsenal, forever in the news.
    You couldn’t just play a game with
    a few second-string players, lose gracefully and no injuries.
    No, you had to lose one key player at 3 minutes and another one at 15, neither injury as a result of contact with the opposition.
    You couldn’t make it up in a work of fiction.
    Whatever is said to be the Arsenal Way, you can safely expect it will be bizarre, totally unexpected or a record of some sort. 😉

  6. @Dave, I liked Bielik too. He looked calm and laid the ball off with intelligence. Looked reasonably strong for young’un too. The others were a bit frenetic and headless but hey wouldn’t you be too on your debut with none of the grown-up’s talking you through it all (as far as I could see).

    @Nicky, The two injuries were so weird, early and soft, you have to be a bit suspicious that it was preplanned and fake. The Club have to show some willing to the authorities, respect to the other club, justify the investment of travelling fans BUT let’s see if we can get the most important players out of there ASAP.

    Feigned injuries? Any takers?

  7. “Thank goodness it’s over” just about sums it up.

    So what are the takeaways from this totally meaningless competition for Arsenal under current set up.

    1. Wholesale changes don’t work out.
    Nine changes against Southampton last season, nine yesterday, six against Dinamo Zagreb, five against Olympiacos resulted in loses when faced with a well drilled and well motivated opposition at full strength.

    Seven changes against the Spurs didn’t because Tottenham made almost as many themselves.

    2. Arsenal are officially in a injury crisis again.
    Picking the option on Rosicky and counting on Arteta giving us something this season was always a gamble, and it seems we might have to pay for it.

    Losing our two speedsters in Ox and Theo could be costly too.

    Hopefully both players realized their muscle tighten up before any serious damage was done.

    Walcott really should treat his warm ups like a world class sprinter that he is should. Sitting down for more than a few minute period requires almost a full warm up again.

    But hey, there were positives as well.
    Not seeing those hideous uniforms again this season or ever again, is well worth going out the competition for.

  8. I won’t comment on the poor performance, but I too liked Bielik; he looks a great prospect and I suspect we may see more of him.

  9. Fishpie, if they were feigned, I for one would be extremely happy with that.
    Our first teamers should be nowhere near this competition unless they are fighting to get back into the team

  10. @Fishpie,
    You have such a suspicious mind you could be a candidate for a position on Arsene’s staff! 😉

  11. @Fishpie and Nicky,
    Nice to see how quick Bielik got rid of the ball, summed up options and kept the ball away from Wednesday. For that, you need savvy and know-how and that was in short supply from the looks of the game. Iwobi and Kamara just had a touch too many most times, but I can see those learning lots from last night. Strange to think that Bielik is the youngest of the 3 and he looks more at home on the pitch. Very good outing to get them to appreciate the pace and extra work required. By the way, I see Ox murmured in 1 of the staff’s ears, go back onto the pitch and promptly sat down not 60 seconds later. That after he charged to get to the ball. Makes you a bit wonder…. Makes you wonder a bit…. ?

  12. For all intends and purposes, Arsenal should be playing the First Team. Against SW, looks like only Cech and Giroud were the only players who started the game and Walcott who came on off the bench. Another two in Gabriel and Monreal were available and thank goodness were not asked to play.

    With another six players rested at home, Arsenal can count on only 10 good First Team players to face Swansea this weekend. The “number 11” position is up for grabs. Will that be given to Campbell or Iwobi?

    We have 3 important matches coming up, so let’s pray there will be no further injuries to the First Team players. Hopefully Ramsey and Walcott will be back after the Internationals.

  13. I think we suffered because we have sent out too many players on loan. Schezney, jenkinson, gnabry, akpom, Hayden, zelelem, Crowley all would have been in contention to play last night .The kids who played are a year or 2 behind the players on loan so they would not have been considered.
    The manager, if possible, should recall akpom and gnabry asap to strengthen the squad as they are more than capable.

  14. I have never been a fan of this competition. You get zero credit for winning it and it is essentially a competition for the next tier clubs.

    If you are playing in the Champions League and trying to win the PL, you have to throw this competition – as you arent allowed to not enter. Personally, I would allow clubs in the Champions League to opt out. Wenger did the right thing with his team selection, he had to rest players like Koscielny, Bellerin,Coquelin, Cazorla, Ozil and Sanchez. The problem he has is that most of the prospects who are at a higher level are on loan, where they should be. Trying to throw together players who have never played together in front of a hostile away crowd is great for the learning process but little else. As anyone who knows anything about the game is aware, wholesale changes create havoc. Add to that the nervousness you get from debutants and you arent going to be competitive.

    Lower teams want their scalp. So they will be highly motivated and tackles will be flying. Wenger knew that, hence the team he picked. He was spot on.

    What really pisses me off though are these idiots who have now decided that the Manager and the club should be abused for losing to Sheffield Wednesday. The same fans who scream for rotation and ‘red zones’ and the same fans who treat the FA Cup as something you win at the Fairground. The same fans who cant wait 5 minutes for a defeat, so they can demonstrate how small minded they are. Instead of just shrugging the game off and looking forward to our challenge for the League, the Capital One Cup is now this huge trophy we should be doing better in.

    Take chief ringleader PW of LG: “When your second string can’t deal with Sheffield Wednesday, you are in trouble. Again, makes that £70m we shirked spending in the summer look all the more striking”……. This guy is so ignorant. Second string?

    We have just thrashed Man Utd and Bayern Munich and are sitting joint top of the league. BUT this idiot cant resist the opportunity to celebrate a defeat and feed this to the desperados who feed off negativity. Firgets to mention Chelseas first string team lost to League 1 Bradford at home last season and they went on to win the PL. Idiot fans.

  15. Proudkiev

    Spot on regarding LG and Pedro.
    He doesnt let slip an opportunity to criticise Arsene Wenger.He is not ingnorant he has an agenda against our manager for sure.

  16. Wasn’t Bielik a first team player for Legia Warsaw one of the top polish team before moving to Arsenal? If I remember correctly he was one of their upcoming star player. I am surprise he’s not in our first team.

  17. AW said: “I have to manage the workload of the players and at the end of the day I still think I brought too many experienced players here”.

    Too true, and i can only hope that Theo and Ox are all right and not seriously injured 🙂

    Swansea is another tough place to go, they play much like SW. This game will be tough because our last game was only 4 days ago and before that 3. Tired legs. Those on loan are needed now, but at least they are gaining valuable experience.

    I hope whoever replaces Theo and Ox are ready for Swansea. Suspect Joel to be on the right although i think he should be in the midfield, perhaps later? He keeps the ball well and works hard, a few more games and he will be much improved again.

  18. Rosicky@arsenal
    I gave a valid reason for why we struggled yesterday. If we had not let so many go out on loan then we would not have had to play the kids and first team players.
    I am a massive wenger supporter but he should not be beyond criticism. Why not recall akpom and gnabry if possible.
    We still have all our key players fit and the defence is very solid so it should see us through the next 3 games and then hopefully Ramsey, ox, and Walcott will return.

  19. @ProudKev – there will be people in this world who will never be satisfied so the best thing to do is ignore them. Haters will always hate.

  20. With our 2nd 11, we win yesterday’s game but with most all of them injured, we had to call in the u19s who looked way out of their depth. Lets just pray the injured guys make quick recoveries.

  21. Pedro

    I didnt meant you .

    I was pointing towards Pedro of LG.

    The so called Arsenal blog.

  22. I know Manchester United do not have the League Cup as a target, and I assume the Arsenal likewise.

    The League Cup will not appear in the top players’ contracts, and I suspect the players do not receive a “win or draw bonus” for playing!

    Moneywise, the League Cup is worthless for those playing in the Europe competitions!

    Who is crying? only the feckless followers!


  23. Just heard that Crowley has been sent back.. a really bad 2 days for our youngsters. We must understand that it’s difficult to judge a talent like Crowley when he plays for Barnsley- a team struggling to stay in League One. In such situations, teams don’t make the best use of their creative talents and, in all probability, he was too good for their team. You can’t be expected to play the final ball and shoot after all.

    In other thoughts, will he do a Coquelin this season? We have three games that Walcott and Ox will surely miss and a spot vacant. Unless Flamini pushes Cazorla further forward, Crowley and Campbell are the only ones who can fill that spot. We’ll find out soon enough.

  24. No, it is a not a reasonable position to take for a footballer to back off and give little effort because they are afraid of being hurt. That is nonsense.

    I think it was a red card challenge by that Weds thug, but it is no excuse for how the team played on the night. They were awful and the level of performance was unacceptable. The injuries may have masked the performance a little but it was clear that the team were just not giving as much or working as hard as the Weds players. It is a common problem for Arsenal in what seems random games. The game just demonstrated again that we are not able to sustain effort over a season.

  25. Jayramfootball
    I think you might find that most Arsenal fans didn’t care about the performance on the night.

    I myself was hoping for a dignified loss against the Spurs the round before.

    Arsenal don’t have the depth to compete on three fronts, let alone four or five( internationals)

    The fact Arsene Wenger was shaking hands with half of the SW staff while smiling, tells you all you need to know how disappointed he was about this loss.

    The only tactical performance I’m interested in on the night was Arsenal’s travel arrangements back home.

    Save your criticism for occasions that matter would be my advice to you.
    I’m sure there will be some.

  26. Martinez
    bellerin, chambers, bielik, jenkinson
    Adelaide, zelalem, Crowley
    Ox, akpom, gnabry

    I believe this team( all under 21 I think) could compete in the league cup . what do you reckon.

  27. So arsenal apparently need players to replace Ozil, Cazorla, Coquelin and Sanchez. Yep, like Man City need back up for Toure, Silva and Aguerro?

    Who are these fans?

    Man City struggled when Kompany was out & imploded last season when Toure was injured. Some players are at a level above everyone else and can’t be replaced.

    How much cover do Chelsea have? They don’t have cover for players like Hazard.look how his bad form has affected them.

    How much have those clubs spent, yet don’t have back up for their quality players.

    Man Utd spent £250 million,they just lost at home to Middlesborough. How,much cover do they have?

    The Fantasy Football Managers drive me bananas.

  28. So United who spend lots of money over the last seasons lost from Middlesbrough at home… And then to think they were stupid enough to let it go to extra time. 🙂
    I think the way we did it was much smarter… wasting as few energy as possible.

    I think anyone who saw the images of Wenger when the final whistle went saw a man not really down. More relieved that it was over in this competition that cost lots of energy and has injuries…

  29. This has nothing to do with the depth of squad or who spent what.

    The clear issue is the lack of effort and interest from the players. One would have thought that rather than cowering in a corner at big bad Wednesday players, they would have been chomping at the bit to prove how good they were and gram their chance.

    To any fan suggesting the game was unimportant, try telling that to the away fans who made the journey up north mid week. Bet they were more than miffed at the managers and players lack of interest.

  30. JamRam, I think you are wrong about the away support. They supported the team totally all the way through, and we all knew about Arsenal’s attitude to the cup. Besides, you give no evidence. The disruption to the team by the initial injuries through the balance out totally, and with two players taken out we had no chance of making a substitution to get the balance back.

    You can have the opinion that the players were not interested, but you can’t know that because you are not telepathic. There is however a lot of evidence to suggest that having put out a weaker team than normal, having extra pace and power in the team with the Ox was an essential part of the balance. Take that out and the youngsters were not supported.

  31. @Brad, I guess some people will be a bit annoyed at me, but Bielik reminded me of Cesc when he started at Arsenal. He has enough time, has fast feet to get the ball away and keeps others away from the ball. To top it all, he is nice and tall and does not get caught on the ball. We have a hidden gem in him and I can see why Arsene is keeping him under wraps at the moment. Overall I think it was a very good learning experience for the young ones…..

  32. Jayram.

    First of all, the fans know we don’t take this competition seriously and that players will be rested. This is the Capital One Cup and as you can see three of the Champions League teams played weak teams and lost. In the scheme of things this competition is not viable. You have two legged semi finals too. Its a daft competition in my opinion and I have never been a fan of it. If you win it, everyone calls it the Micky Mouse Cup. Bloody hell, we won back to back FA Cup and we had clowns calling that a worthless trophy!!

    Our first choice players would have found that a tough game, away to a team that is high on confidence, on a good run, highy motivated and decent. We did the right thing in resting our key players. It seems some fans want it both ways. They moan when we ‘over play’ players and they moan when the manager rests them, accusing him of letting the fans down, as you have. That is hypocritical nonsense. LVG was moaning about there being too many games and his players being in the ‘red zone’ – thats why he rested players. Good decision.

    To lose Oxlade Chamberlain in the second minute changed the balance of the team. To then lose another of the experieinced players 15 minutes later is just incredible. Thank god he didnt take Ozil, Sanchez, Coquelin, Cazorla and Koscielny.

    Players fitness for the PL is the priority not this silly Cup. Balance of a team is important. So too is confidence. When you have so many changes and a number of players making their debuts, what did you expect? The first 15 minutes we lost 2 players, leaving us having to add another 2 weaker players to the team. And leaving just one sub.

    Your expectation level is ridiculous and unfair. I dont think anyone wasnt trying. The team was not physically up to the level and of course the team had never played together before.

    You can complain about the Manager all you want but he made the right call. We have the best points total of any team since January 1st in the PL. We have just beaten man Utd soundly and Bayern Munich. So I dont understand why you are having such a hissy fit mate, unless its just an esxcuse to jump on the Managers back? The best thing that cpuld have happened is exit this Cup. The worst thing was injuries to players – these injuries justify his decision to leave most of the team back home resting.

  33. proudkev,

    I guess that you don’t know who jayramfootball is by giving him such an undeserved but well reasoned response.

    Please don’t waste your time. We have evidence of his postings on other sites expressing desire for Arsenal to lose important games badly so that Arsene Wenger can get sacked.

    I honestly think you should ignore him and spend your time and energy on people with genuine concerns or misconceptions.

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