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The Arsenal EFL Cup Final Autopsy : Where was the match lost and why


When Arsenal were left to sue what exactly happened for the first goal in the EFL Cup final, few could deny that by then they were the better team on the field but had only themselves to blame for the manner in which they basically gifted the opposition and potential champions a gift served on a platter. They knew what they had to do to win and what a cup win would mean for them and the fans and yet somehow those 11 who took the field did not care or rather acted as if they did not quite understand what taking the field at Wembley means when you are an Arsenal player.

It’s a fact that Kocielny and Mustafi can’t be in the same line up. There is no understanding between the pair and their fluctuating form ensures that the defence is always likely to let in as many goals as they score. It’s also a fact , that out of all the top six sides , Arsenal have the worst defence in the premiership .

Gary Neville’s analysis of Arsenal’s capitulation to Manchester City was as brutal as it was accurate.

” I’ve not really liked their defending for a longtime ,I’ve not really like their leadership , their character for a longtime and the spirit on the pitch but you’ve always liked the football. I don’t even like the football anymore , the last bastion has gone. It’s a dark, dark day.”

He was far from finished but was certainly not wide of the mark when he said

“A lot of these Arsenal players have had far too many chances for far too many years, they proved to us and everybody they aren’t good enough. “

Apart from Wilshere waving his arms around , complaining and reducing himself to the level of a much lesser player by constantly pushing and shoving , no one else cared much about what was happening on the field even though they were playing in the EFL Cup Final.

EFL Cup final
Image obtained via talkSPORT

After Roy Keane’s hatchet job on the midfielder by claiming he was overrated , Wilshere simply didn’t live up to the occasion but neither did anyone else.

On social media , Ospina was touted as the first choice keeper but he looked like a man who had played rarely and his contribution hardly gave a squeaky defence any degree of increased confidence.

Mustafi was the main culprit for the opening goal. He claimed he was shoved by Agüero but it was an incident hardly worth noting. I’ve experienced worse at a Black Friday sale and she in her 70’s but Mustafi just gave up and gave in. He let the striker get behind him and it was as if the defender knew he was unable to cope with the striker and limply looked for the easiest of excuses.

One suspects Tony Adams or Sol Cambell would have presented a much tougher obstacle and the German should feel embarrassed by his non effort this morning. Koschelny , who was once spoken of as a world class defender only a few years ago , was woeful . He seemed to be looking at the ball as it constantly went behind and beyond him which indicates that his positional play was inept.

EFL Cup final
Imagine Tony Adams doing what Mustafi did
Image obtained via The Times

Arsenal fans have known of his decline for a while but Wenger persists as Wenger does, by displaying loyalty for players who just aren’t up to the job. Chambers , so often the outcast was trusted on the big occasion to keep it altogether but he was a passenger on a sinking ship and not capable of dealing with a City side that looked better than they actually were.

They hardly broke sweat , Arsenal were flat and ponderous and each attack saw them react like a rabbit caught in the headlights and they lacked any urgency , especially in their defending. It was a stroll , a lacklustre appearance by a team once regarded as one of the best on the planet but they are , despite all their creative influences and attacking options in dramatic decline.

As George Graham once pointed out , a team should be built from the back but Wenger has fashioned it in reverse. Wenger currently has the cart pulling the horse but the horse is more like a donkey and the cart is full to the brim. There needs to be a summer fire sale., to get rid of those that have had the managers ear for too long and those that he has stuck regardless that simply can’t meet expectations. Aubameyang was a forlorn figure , without any service , he had to rely on pace and any speculative balls over the City defence and those opportunities were few and far between . To get the best of of a player of his ilk , he needs the creative players to turn up and put in a shift , they didn’t.

There was no fight , no response and no intensity. Arsenal were outclassed comprehensively and no amount of discussion will resolve the problems they’ve had for so long. Talk of change in North London has not altered a single thing and although Wenger will manfully accept the blame , he was not one of the 11 that took to the field and gave up so easily.

At half time in the EFL Cup there was still hope but whatever the manager said fell on deaf ears , there were no heroics , no signs of resilience or defiance in their performance and in the second half, it was more of the same. When the mighty fall from grace it’s normally a long drop and to arrest that decline is going to be difficult for Wenger or anyone else.

There was an absence of spirit , just 11 individuals who looked on , as the aspirations of finally winning the EFL cup of their fans crashed into the Wembley turf.

In a corruption of the great Sir Winston Churchill speech  ‘Never was so little given by so many ‘

it was difficult , it was painful , it was almost certainly unacceptable.

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The Long Shadow
Anti Kroenke , anti Gazidis but always a gooner. Still wishes he could watch from the stands at the Highbury library.

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