No matter what Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would have you believe, his team certainly was embarrassed on Tuesday night up in Bradford when the League Two outfit eliminated them from quarterfinal stage of the Capital One Cup. That’s the old League Cup for those who can’t keep up with the regular name changes of the competition.
If there was any face saved, it’s the fact the Gunners at least made it past the 90 minute and 120 minute marks with the score tied 1-1. They weren’t officially humiliated until the penalty shootout arrived and they were dumped out on their collective backsides by a score of 3-2. And the shootout score may also reflect the state of professional football today as five out of 10 players failed to hit the back of the net from just 12 yards out.
It’s hard to pin the blame for this loss on Wenger as he fielded a strong lineup, at least on paper. Now either these players simply had a bad night, aren’t as good as their resumes would have you believe, or have finally given up playing for their manager. Whatever the reason, there’s not really any excuse for a multi-million pound football institution such as Arsenal to lose to a second division club like Bradford. That’s an elite team losing to a fourth-tier club that is located dozens of positions below them in the tables.
If it wasn’t for Thomas Vermaelen’s goal with just three minutes to play in regulation time this match would have been over in 90 minutes though. When it went to the penalty shootout the odds were on Bradford’s side as they had won their last eight shootouts in a row. But in a way, this isn’t really a shock result to many Arsenal supporters who have been closely following the club’s fortunes since 2005, the last time they hoisted any silverware. There must have been some who were tempted to lay a few pounds on Bradford down at the bookies before this game kicked off.
The loss will just add more pressure to Arsene Wenger now by the faction of fans who want to see him relieved of his duties. And while the players may be to blame for the debacle against Bradford, Wenger’s ultimately the one responsible. The Gunners were so bad they didn’t get a decent shot on target until just before the 70 minute mark even though they had fallen behind as early as the 16th minute on a goal by Garry Thompson. They woke up just in time to level the score before the final whistle blew and then realized they had better put an effort into the 30 minutes of extra time, which they went on to dominate. Santi Cazorla came close to putting the Gunners ahead, but his shot slammed off the bar.
He also missed Arsenal’s first attempt of the shootout as it was saved and then Marouane Chamakh missed the second when he hit the post. Vermaelen could have leveled the score, but he missed as well when his shot hit the post. When it did, the Valley Parade crowd of 24,000 erupted. After the game Wenger said he couldn’t fault the team’s effort and Bradford deserves credit. But who’s fault is it then to lose a game to a second division club in such an important game? That seems to be the question the Arsenal board, manager, supporters, and players need to figure out before any improvement is made.
The players may have taken the game for granted and assumed their mere presence on the pitch would result in a win. They quickly learned that you actually have to put an effort in to earn a victory. By fielding a strong lineup it was obvious that Wenger wanted to win the match, but the players didn’t seem to be on the same page as their manager with the exception of Vermaelen, Jack Wilshire and Wojciech Szczesny. It didn’t help that Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud were out, but million-pound players such as Gervinho, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Chamakh should be able to handle a league two squad. All of their 63 per cent possession went for naught as they couldn’t create anything in front of Bradford’s goal and they paid for it dearly.
Player rankings vs Bradford Dec. 11
Wojciech Szczesny 7
Saved two penalties in the shootout and had a decent game during the 120 minutes. Couldn’t be faulted for the goal.
Bacary Sagna 5
His crosses were poor and he left Thompson alone at the post for Bradford’s goal.
Thomas Vermaelen 6.5
He scored the equalizer with a few minutes to go, but when the pressure was on in the shootout he hit the post, ending the game. Gave away the Bradford free kick which ultimately led to a goal and had problems containing attackers.
Per Mertesacker 5
Rarely won a ball in the air, but other than that he wasn’t too bad.
Kieran Gibbs 5
Beaten on the free kick that led to the goal. His crosses were also poor when he got up the pitch.
Francis Coquelin 6.5
Surprisingly, he had a decent game, especially in the first 45 minutes. Put in a pretty good effort, but Wenger took him off after 60 minutes.
Jack Wilshere 7.5
Again, Wilshere was the Gunners top performer. He put in the required effort, but wasn’t helped out by his teammates. Scored in the shootout.
Santi Cazorla 6.5
Cazorla set up Arsenal’s goal with a great cross and almost scored the winner in extra time. However, his shot hit the crossbar and he also failed to score when going first in the shootout.
Aaron Ramsey 4.5
Not a good game for the Welshman. His shooting and passing were quite poor and Wenger should realize he’s not a natural winger. Came off in the 69th minute.
Lukas Podolski 5
Podolski is another player who isn’t really a winger, but that’s not really any excuse for a poor performance. Podolski’s always been a good scorer and should be drifting over into the middle of the pitch when necessary. Came off in the 69th minute
Have always wondered why this guy was bought in the first place. He had a decent start to the season, but that’s all he’s done since moving to London. Missed an open goal for the second game running. On the positive side, he should be an inspiration to every kid in the world, because if he can make it to the Premier League then anybody can.
Marouane Chamakh 3
Came on in the 6oth minute for Coquelin. Chamakh was as bad as Gervinho, which says just about everything you need to know about his performance. Hit the post in the shootout.
Tomas Rosicky 6.5
Came on in the 69th minute for Ramsey and added a bit of life to the team. Played well with Cazorla and tried to turn the game around.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain 5.5
Came on in the 69th minute for Podolski, but couldn’t cross his fingers in this match let alone the ball. Finds himself in decent field position and scored in the shootout.