Manchester City 3-0 Arsenal
Predictable result? It was if you look at the team Wenger put out. When I saw the 18-man squad I thought we’d have a hell of a job on our hands, especially breaking through up front, and so it proved. We did well enough until the first goal went in but fizzled out after that.
Annoyingly, I tried to watch the first half using Sky’s Mobile TV iPhone app, but either my broadband or the Sky stream itself made it a pointless exercise. By the time I’d settled down in front of the telly for the second half, the rot had set in.
Wenger’s taking it in both barrels across the media for the team selection and his refusal to shake hands with Mark Hughes. He can do what he likes when it comes to shaking hands, I suppose, but clearly, there’s a huge clash of personalities between the two.
The bottom line is something like this provides a story the club doesn’t need, but it will blow over pretty quickly. It doesn’t feel like a big diplomatic incident.
The bigger picture, of course, is that Wenger’s line-up and post-match comments prove he never intended to go hell for leather to win this competition. For him, it’s a proving ground for younger players, but not much more. Home games in the League Cup have long been excluded from our season tickets for that very reason – he doesn’t play the first team. We all know that.
The 5,000 travelling gooners – as well as plenty of other fans – will wish he’d picked a stronger squad, but nobody will honestly have expected him to completely overturn a policy that has been in place for years. In the end, coming up against a first team assembled at vast cost was too much for the side he chose. Should he have chosen a stronger side? I remember he did a few years ago in the semi-final against Wigan, but we still lost.
In principle, I agree with using the competition in this way. It would be very hard for any squad, let alone this one, to compete on four fronts after Christmas. That’s why he pushes this one down the priority list.
The gamble last night was that we’d already lost two in a row, neither of which had done the fragile confidence of the squad any good at all. Sunderland was a bad performance, Chelsea was a gulf in class. A third tame defeat was bound to set alarm bells ringing given the two previous results. That’s exactly what has happened. Will it have affected confidence yet further?
Saturday’s reaction will be fascinating. Nothing less than a win will do, and a good win at that. Do that and we are back on track.