An embarrassing FA Cup defeat for Arsenal as they were mauled 4-2 by Nottingham Forest away from home at the City Ground. The scoreline, as bizarre as it may look, should have been the other way round.
It was the first time Arsenal were knocked out from the FA Cup in the third round since Arsene Wenger took charge at the Emirates and it was a purely disgraceful performance by Arsenal.
Having made 10 changes to the team that took on Chelsea midweek, only Maitland-Niles was included in the starting 11. The bench also lacked experience, with all youngsters included. There was no one to change the game around if needed and that is what happened.
Arsenal, the club with the most FA Cup trophies, never played like one. The Premier League title seems like a distant possibility and the Europa League is not considered to be important by Wenger.
So the FA Cup was the only realistic trophy Arsenal could have challenged for, along with the Carabao cup, but after this performance, Arsenal could very well go another season trophy-less.
Nottingham Forest, European Champions once upon a time, did not have to play to their top level to brush away the young Arsenal team.
Taking nothing away, they still put in a performance Arsenal themselves perhaps should have. Arsenal were in shambles at the back, as has been the case all season and the championship side did not hesitate to run into that defence.
The match started with Arsenal controlling the ball, but were too casual in their play and Forest took advantage of it. Their front-line troubled the Arsenal centre-back pairing of Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding, both of whom lacked pace, and created chances at regular intervals.
They took the lead through Eric Lichaj in the 20th minute, converting from a set piece in which Arsenal were left sleeping as he wandered through in front of the goal and headed home.
Arsenal did equalize through Per Mertesacker following another set piece, but Forest, determined as they were, took the lead just before halftime and it was Eric Lichaj again, controlling the ball by his chest and unleashing a spectacular shot into the top corner.
The second half was no different than the first. Rob Holding conceded a penalty in the 64th minute which was dispatched easily into the back of the net by Brereton making it 3-2. With Arsenal looking to get back into the game, Welbeck then capitalized on a rare mistake by the Forest goalkeeper and pulled one back for the Gunners.
With the match moving towards a dramatic finish, everyone expected Arsenal to bounce back and get the equalizer. But it was Forest who wanted it more than Arsenal, and kept on creating chances.
In the 89th minute, Debuchy's tackle inside the box gave Forest another penalty and a chance to seal the game. Kieran Dowell stepped up to take the spot kick but slipped while shooting and seemed to have touched the ball twice.
The referee John Moss had a discussion with his assistant and there was not enough evidence to turn the decision and the goal was awarded. It provided to be the final nail in the coffin, and a rather disastrous night for Arsenal fans came to an end.
Without further ado, let's take a look at how the Arsenal players fared in the defeat:
David Ospina - 5
Ospina had a decent performance and made some good saves. If not for him Arsenal would have conceded 5-6 goals.
Mathieu Debuchy - 7
Debuchy was the best player on the pitch for Arsenal and his performance was the only positive to take away for the Gunners. The Frenchman seems to be performing to the best of his abilities whenever chance has been given to him.
He certainly seems to be knocking on the first team door and with Bellerin not in his best of form, it might not be late that Debuchy gets his reward. the only blip in his game was the conceded penalty.
Per Mertesacker - 4.5
The World Cup winner seems to have run his time out. Best time for him to retire is now rather than the end of the season. He struggles against even a little bit of pace and is slow in decision making and in distributing the ball. The only thing he is good at is in the air and the goal he scored is the only thing he could fall back on for his performance.
Maitland-Niles - 6
The youngster looked visibly tired from the performance he put up against Chelsea mid-week. The thought that he needs to play the Blues again in the absence of Sead Kolasinac could have been the reason behind not being involved high up the pitch to help Reiss Nelson.
Though he was involved in some linkups and showed his trickery in the middle of the park, it was never going to be enough against an energized Forest side.
Rob Holding - 4
Holding had a disaster of a second half, giving unnecessary free-kicks and even conceding a penalty when Arsenal were looking to come back into the came. Struggled against the pace and seems to be following in Mertesacker's footsteps. The centre-back pairing was shambolic and left huge spaces for their forwards to run into.
Mohamad Elneny - 4.5
The Egyptian's time at Arsenal seems to have come to an end. He is no longer an integral part of the team. Mediocre attacking, as well as ordinary defending skills, has helped Elneny constantly find himself out of the team. He needs to be sold in the transfer window so that those funds are available to make some big signings.
Joseph Willock - 4
One of the worst players for Arsenal last night, Willock never looked to have understood his role. He was expected to shield the defence along with Elneny, but most often than not, was never seen in the midfield, and was playing way too high up the pitch. The youngster needs more experience and confidence to perform at this level.
Reiss Nelson - 5
The promising 18-year-old tried enough on the left wing all by himself, lacking support at times. He was constantly trying to do something or the other but to no avail. A rare poor show by Nelson considering his superb performances in the Europa League this season.
Theo Walcott - 4.5
Walcott's performances have been going from bad to worse this season in whatever chances he gets. He needs playing time to bolster his confidence and reports of him being looked Southampton could be better for his future.
Danny Welbeck - 6
Welbeck was one of the most hard-working players on the pitch besides Debuchy. His continuous press and runs for the ball were awarded when the opposition goalkeeper made an error and he found an open net. Still needs to improve his performances.
Alex Iwobi - 4.5
Iwobi never got going in the game. Poor touches and unsuccessful dribbles were the highlights of his performance today. Needs to improve if he wants to get into the first team.
Chuba Akpom - 5
Akpom came on for Debuchy in the dying minutes of the game. Had a good chance to score when he tried to scoop the ball on top of the keeper but missed.
Edward Nketiah - 5.5
Was used as a super sub in the Europa League to win the game for Arsenal and almost made an instant impact on the game but failed to score.Published 08 Jan 2018, 11:30 IST