Arsenal: Cech, Debuchy, Chambers, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Flamini, Kamara, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Iwobi, Campbell, Giroud
Subs: Macey, Monreal, Gabriel, Bielik, Bennacer, Sheaf, Walcott
Sheffield Wednesday crushed Arsenal’s Capital One Cup aspirations with a 3-0 win at Hillsborough on a torrid night for Arsene Wenger. The Frenchman saw his mix-and-match outfit lose both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and replacement Theo Walcott to injury inside the first 15 minutes before goals from Ross Wallace and Lucas João gave the hosts a deserved first half lead. Five minutes after the break Sam Hutchinson added a scrappy third to add gloss to the result for the Championship side.
Petr Cech, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Olivier Giroud were the only players to keep their place from Sunday’s win over Everton with Arsene Wenger, as expected, making a swathe of changes. The boss handed first team debuts to Alex Iwobi and Glen Kamara and called up fellow youngsters Matt Macey, Krystian Bielik, Ben Sheaf and Ismael Bennacer to the bench. Mathieu Flamini, hero of the last round at Sp*rs, anchored the midfield in front of Chambers and Mertesacker with Debuchy and Gibbs flanking them.
It’s fair to say the opening 45 minutes were a total clusterfuck from a Gunners perspective. The game had barely begun before we were forced into two early changes. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, playing off the right wing, pulled up with a tight hamstring on four minutes and Theo Walcott, thrown on in his place, lasted only ten minutes before complaining of a calf problem.
Theo was replaced by Ismael Bennacer, the 17-year-old summer signing from Arles-Avignon, and the kid looked genuinely frightened as he took to the turf in front of a baying Hillsborough crowd.
To add insult to literal injuries we defended like absolute mugs and deservedly conceded two goals. On 27 minutes Debuchy was caught out by a lofted pass over his head and when the ball was cut back by Daniel Pudil to the edge of Gunners area Ross Wallace tucked home low past a wrong-footed Cech. Questions have to be asked of Flamini’s decision not to close down the Scot, whose finish was tidy.
Wednesday came close a couple more times, Wallace flashed a free-kick just wide and Cech tipped around the post from Lucas João. The seemingly inevitable second goal was only delayed by a matter of seconds though as the Portuguese striker rose highest in a packed box to crash home a header from the resulting short corner.
If there was a positive it was that Joel Campbell proved he could tackle, unfortunately, passing, dribbling and shooting look beyond the Costa Rican. Alex Iwobi did show quick feet on a couple of occasions and had our only shot on goal. By and large though the squad had to hang their head in shame at the break. We just didn’t look up for it and Wednesday did.
The second half started with more wretched Arsenal defending. Not for the first time a cheap free-kick was given away in the final third, this time Chambers hauling down João, and from the set piece Wednesday’s Tom Lees was left free at the back post to cushion a pass across the six-yards for Sam Hutchinson to bundle home. It may even have been Debuchy who applied the touch; we’re tempted to give it to him given how abject he was all night. Not long after he went into the book…possibly for impersonating a footballer.
On the hour mark Glen Kamara, the first ever Finn to play for Arsenal, was replaced by Bielik who was also making his first senior appearance since signing from Legia Warsaw last January. The Pole’s arrival in midfield seemed to calm us down for a while and we won a series of corners trying to work possession down the right flank.
Mertesacker had a header well saved at close range but by that point the game was long lost. We did on occasion try to keep the ball, but without anyone really attempting to run between the lines possession was all too often surrendered.
Fair play to Wednesday who showed the passion you’d expect when 35,000 locals turn up to watch you on a brisk evening. Arsenal have to regroup before a tricky trip to Swansea on Saturday. We could do with what’s left of our squad staying fit for a while. The injuries are starting to get worrying.
We’ll save the last word for the kit…when you wear black and blue, you get beaten black and blue. Unless you’re Sheffield Wednesday, apparently.