That was a pretty miserable night last night, if truth be told. I made the schlep all the way to the other side of London, to that soulless bowl of a stadium, having had to virtually sprint at every stage coming from West London as I had an over-running work event that I had to set up and then depart from, which I then proceeded to watch 90-pluss minutes of pretty average stuff in which a pretty decent – on paper – Arsenal team looked like they just went through the motions.
And look, I get it, this trophy is the least of our worries. But if you get to the end of the season and you’ve finished fourth and you don’t get a nice day out at Wembley and a little silver trinket to celebrate, then ultimately you look at the season and say you’ve come out of it empty-handed. And that’s disappointed. I am talking purely on a selfish basis here too because I am lucky enough to be able to afford to go to Arsenal games at home, I get to go to the occasional away game last night and whenever we’ve been in Cup finals in this country in the last ten years or so, I’ve been able to be there. So I love a Wembley day out and after seeing performances like yesterday, it is just disappointing to know that’s one less that I – and we – will get.
I think what also is leading to some concern for me this morning, is that it is not as if this match was completely thrown by Arteta. He named a pretty strong line up of players who you’d all hope can come in just in case we get injuries. We’ve all talked about how Arteta this season must feel like he’s got a stronger squad that he trusts, but on the basis of last night’s showing from some of those rotated players, he might start to have second thoughts.
So let’s go from back to front on individual performances, shall we?
Ramsdale. I said to both Steve and Mark who I was with last night that I want him to step up. I want Arteta to mean what he said about having two number ones and I want both to get 25 games this season each, minimum. Because it spreads the risk in case one is injured and it also means that we’re trying something different that is helping the overall squad. But I thought on the first goal last night Ramsdale neither came for the corner, nor stood on his line. Granted, it was a Ben White flicked header that was poor and granted, he was tugged by a West Ham player that in the Premier League is probably (although with VAR you never really know) getting pulled back for a foul. But I didn’t think he looked as assured or as good as he did in the last round and this will have done him no favours for getting his starting spot back based on yesterday evening, unfortunately. You can see Raya coming straight back in and you can see that Ramsdale probably isn’t going to be seen until Brentford away and then the new year, now, I suspect.
In defence we went strong too, but we gave away some cheap goals as well, particularly the second goal in the second half, where Zinchenko lost Kudus and although the finish was great he will know he could have tracked him better I think. Then on the third goal I know it was a deflection, but Gabriel will know he could have done more to close down and I think Ramsdale will still expect to get a better paw on it than he got with it peppered at him.
In midfield Jorginho was ok, average at best you’d probably say, but in front of him the two eights were anonymous. I barely noticed Fabio Vieira all game and Kai Havertz was just woeful. We’re now 15 games in to the season adn we’ve seen little to suggest that my summer worries of this as a signing is going to work out. He’s at the club, he’s an Arsenal player, of course I want him to succeed, but I am really struggling with this now. It felt expensive at the time for a player who we assumed could thrive in a midfield position, but at this stage I’m starting to struggle what he delivers. And if I wanted somebody in that advanced and creative eight role to be a hard worker and somebody who comes back and wins duels, I’d rather we’d have gone out and got another combative six and played with a double pivot. Because what we thought we were going to get with Havertz, at this moment in time, we’re just not getting. Unless something switches in the next month or so, this is going to all start to feel a little bit Williany I’m afraid. Only this time that scummy club Chelsea shafted us out of £65million.
Then in attack we got little to be happy about either. I was disappointed in Trossard, who barely featured in that first half and although Reiss Nelson had a couple of nice runs in the opening 45, he faded away pretty badly in the second. And then to Eddie, who I am now realising is a guy who is useful for home matches against mid table teams or lower, but away from home is near to redundant and I heard something this morning that he hasn’t scored in something like his last 18 away games. I’m sorry, but for a central striker at The Arsenal that is just not good enough, and it’s another area for concern.
We got a consolation goal in injury time, but I can’t really be bothered to go into the detail of that. It was pretty irrelevant.
I think for me it is the manner of the way we went out, rather than the actual exit itself. Last season we went out in the FA Cup to City I was like “ok, no probs, let’s focus on the league now and get a win against Everton” and we followed up that exit with a really shoddy display at Goodison. That’s what I worry about now for the weekend, that we follow up one shoddy display from another. And those two back-to-back defeats last season were in similar circumstances in terms of the number of players we rotated; we did half the team, but there was still enough first teamers out there to still be reeling from that defeat. I won’t go in to my expected line up for Saturday just yet, but if I was to pick my team for Saturday there would probably be three players who would need to be picked. That means eight to come in which is a fair amount of changes, but a fair few of those eight coming in also stepped on to the pitch as substitutes, so they’ll bear some scarring too from this defeat.
Let’s just hope it doesn’t manifest itself as a weekend hangover in two days time.
Catch you all tomorrow or, if you fancy a lunchtime check in and debrief, James and I will be on the Same Old Arsenal podcast at 1pm today.