Cup Holders Arsenal Outgunned by Forest
Arsene Wenger makes his first FA Cup third-round exit as manager-less Championship side Nottingham Forest shock Arsenal at the City Ground.
Wenger made nine changes to the side that played in the thrilling midweek Premiership tie with Chelsea. A selection that will haunt him, as he then watched his side embarrassed and outplayed by a young but lion-hearted Championship side.
A side that had only just lost their manager following the sacking of Mark Warburton. Led out by caretaker manager Gary Brazil, Forest played off the back of a 0-0 draw with Leeds, his first game in charge.
The home side took a surprise lead when Eric Lichaj charged in to meet a cross from close range, right in front of Ospina.
Nottingham Forest were ahead.
The advantage lasted just three minutes as Per Mertesacker followed up when Rob Holding’s header hit the woodwork.
Fighting bravely on through the half, and aided by their opponents defensive errors, Lichaj reclaimed the lead for the underdogs. The American defender scoring a spectacular brace from a high ball taken on the chest and volleying in from the edge of the area just before the break.
Forest pulled further clear in the second half when eighteen-year-old Ben Brereton sent David Ospina the wrong way from the spot after Holding brought down Matty Cash.
Wellbeck pulls one back
Danny Welbeck lessened the task for Wenger’s altered side after Forest goalkeeper Jordan Smith failed to hold on to a through-ball. He could only watch as Welbeck pounced to roll it in.
But Arsenal’s first FA Cup third-round defeat since January 1996 – in a replay against Sheffield United was confirmed, courtesy of Kieran Dowell’s 85th-minute penalty.
More controversy ensued as it appeared that Dowell had illegally double kicked the ball. He slipped when he shot, with the ball coming off his other boot. The unsure referee consulted official Ed Smart but the goal was given.
Much to the dismay of the Arsenal players who hotly protested the decision. Arsene Wenger could only watch helplessly from the stands as he serves his touch-line ban. Forest’s Joe Worrall was shown a straight red card in the closing stages for a late tackle, and the Championship side were down to ten men.
But it was too late for Wenger and his cup-holding side. They’d been knocked out of the competition by Championship team Nottingham Forest.
The backlash on social media was immediate, with Wenger’s team choices being branded as ‘foolish’ and ‘arrogant’.
His team are the current FA Cup holders and have proudly held it five times in his reign.
Arsene Wenger: “I didn’t see it..”
Wenger can only now regret his decision to leave out the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mezut Ozil, and Olivier Giroud. He defended his selection, however, refusing to use it as an excuse when he spoke to the BBC after the game.
“When you don’t win there are always questions, we have had that many times. And, I believe we had an experienced team. Despite the fact selection will be a question. 8 or 9 international players, only two young players in the team. I believe it would be easy to say now this was the problem today”
When asked about the alleged double kicked penalty, he gave his trademark ambiguous reply: “I didn’t see it. And honestly, I have said what I needed to say, there is no need to say anymore. That’s all I can tell you. “
Caretaker boss Gary Brazil was obviously delighted with the result. He humbly said of the weekend’s headline upset:
“I am massively pleased for the players. They all put in a very good shift and got a deserved victory, and for the fans that is fantastic, they’ll all go home happy. It was a good day all round for the club.”
After today he will be looked on heroically for the win. If he were considering applying for the full-time position, it really was a good day all round.
The same cannot be said for beleaguered Arsene Wenger, who will no doubt face more calls for his departure. With his career already jeopardised by this year’s lack of a Champion’s League place or league title, his supporters must be running out of excuses to give the once prolific manager.
— Eric Lichaj (@EricLichaj) January 7, 2018