Arsenal hosted Southampton in the quarter-final of the EFL Cup on Wednesday night. The Gunners started the game with a multitude of changes and it showed. Southampton weren’t really troubled throughout the whole game and completely outclassed the Gunners. Aaron Ramsey was a constant disappointment while Lucas Perez again struggled up front. In the end, a 2-0 loss was very kind on Arsenal, it could’ve easily been four or five. With that said, let’s have a look at the ‘Four Things we Learned’ from the game…
1. Rotation Without Cohesion
Arsenal fielded an XI with 10 changes from the weekend’s win over Bournemouth, and the effects were evident from the start. Far from the free-flowing football fans have come to expect in this 19 game unbeaten run, the Gunners looked all over the place. Poor passes, slow on the ball and often getting doubled up on the flanks saw Southampton dominate the game at the Emirates and outplay their hosts. The inclusion of Xhaka and Chamberlain saw Arsenal lift their work rate but to no avail as the damage had long been done. The changes completely inhibited Arsenal’s rhythm and flow, it’s safe to say that the team selection didn’t work tonight.
2. Overplaying Through the Middle
With 70 minutes of the game gone, Arsenal pushed forward once again, with Iwobi, Chamberlain, Gibbs and Maitland-Niles all looking to break through the middle. This, along with Jenkinson’s persistence to be involved in the build-up play through the center highlighted Arsenal’s constant narrow and congested play. The problems began early on with Reine-Adelaide playing clearly out of position and refusing to track back with Iwobi constantly looking to cut inside leaving Gibbs to be doubled up on. Positional rotation is vital in the modern game and the fluidity of the front line is one of Arsenal’s strengths,
The problems began early on with Reine-Adelaide playing clearly out of position and refusing to track back with Iwobi constantly looking to cut inside leaving Gibbs isolated. Positional rotation is vital in the modern game and the fluidity of the front line is one of Arsenal’s strengths, however, this is clearly not the case for players struggling to break into the first-team.
3. Second String Lack Maturity
The likes of Martinez, Jenkinson, Holding, Reine-Adelaide and Perez all showcased moments of poor positioning and decision making in tonight’s game. Jenkinson seemed exhausted 30 minutes in and made poor, costly decisions in both tracking back and passing, while Rob Holding showed a somewhat level-headed performance marred by some poor positioning.
Reine-Adelaide and Perez were both determined to create something on the front foot, yet refused to track back and get involved in their defensive duties and often left their teammates exposed. Martinez conceded two on a night, he could’ve even concded five on the night. For a potential future number one, the failure to recover from collisions in time and hold onto the ball may come to haunt the young goalkeeper in the future.
4. Wenger Disregards the League Cup
All top teams are known and expected to rotate during lower priority trophys in order to rest their best players. Arsenal kept only one player from the win against Bournemouth and chose to mix youth with experience. Unfortunately, the lack of first-team quality showed early on in the game how reliant the Gunners are on a specific style of play which may not work for less disciplined players. Starting Ramsey, Elneny and Coquelin, yet resting Sanchez and Özil for a quarter-final match shows that Wenger used this match as an opportunity to test out some of his younger players. The exclusions say more than the inclusions, and the exclusions point towards the fact that Arsene Wenger regarded the quarter-final of the League Cup as a chance to tinker with his player selections. Arsenal are a top club, and falling out of contention for any trophy is detrimental.
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