Nottingham Forest 1-0 Arsenal
It does make me chortle a bit that we were lauded for losing last week, but lambasted for losing this week. A week’s a long time in defeats.
What a curious loss this was, in many ways, because you could see it coming from pretty early on, and yet nothing Arteta tried – even bringing on his Bosnian wildcard scoring machine supersub in the ninety-billionth minute – made the faintest difference.
Oh no Tavares
The scene was set early on, when Tavares – who’s made a good start to his career at Arsenal – was hauled off for a string of switched-off passes and positions. It wasn’t Eboue-level humiliating, but it will have stung. I thought it was a bit hasty at the time, though the good denizens of Twitter seemed to think Arteta had called it right. But given how the rest of the match panned out, he was hardly the only one, was he?
But on the basis that you can’t bring all your players off, Arteta ran out of options pretty quickly.
When your players are having a collective stinker, and the bench is as thin as gruel, there wasn’t a whole lot that was going to make a difference once Tierney and Lacazette were on. Neither could apply the required smelling salts. The few chances we had were squandered and that was that.
Missing in action
The contrast between this and last week was stark, but while you can’t excuse the lack of “purpose and determination” (Arteta’s words), the starting XI obviously missed many of the players who played with such skill and heart last week: Ramsdale, Gabriel, Tomiyasu, Partey, Xhaka, Tierney and Lacazette. The backups, didn’t do their chances any good and even such reliable performers as Saka looked off the pace.
The midfield felt like the key area, with Lokonga and Patino unable to stamp any kind of presence on the affair. Patino will have enjoyed his opportunity, I have no doubt, but he’s clearly not ready yet. Maybe we can dial down that hype machine a bit, given the pressure it must inevitably cause.
Boom and bust
A performance like this comes at a bad time, with the first semi-final of the Milk Cup on Thursday and a trip to our friendly neighbours on Sunday. It’s another make-or-break week (we seem to specialise in these) that will either see us well placed on two fronts, or potentially facing up to four straight defeats.
Patching up the troops is the key task, particularly in midfield. As is quickly getting to the bottom of the collective brain freeze that came over us yesterday.
It wasn’t our best XI, but it should have been a lot better than that.
Off we go again *hoiks up socks*