28 October 2015

London club in SHAMBLES after SHOCK loss to underdogs from the North!

A shocking League Cup loss has a London club in dizzying disarray, sources report, with critics wondering just what the manager is up to with his squad selection and tactics after the big-city club were upended by the upstarts from up north. Even if it's true that many Prem clubs see these cup-ties as a chance to bed in some youngsters, this was one occasion when the gaffer saw fit to send on what amounted to a full-strength squad only to see his XI eclipsed by a more-ambitious lower side. I speak, of course, of Chelsea, who sent out a strong squad only to lose on penalties to Stoke. Yes, yes, it's true that Arsenal also lost, but only one of these two London clubs seemed to treat the event with any urgency. In what might be becoming a specialty, they failed anyway.

At our end, of course, we threw out an XI that include Academy players like Iwobi and Kamara (and, let's admit it, Bennacer) and back-benchers such as Debuchy, Gibbs, Chambers, and Campbell. In short, only three of our XI hail from the first-team regulars. As such, there was bound to be some discombobulation and miscommunication. That were also a lack of intensity is another issue.

Any time a Prem side goes into the League Cup, they have to know that they'll find themselves in a no-win situation: win, and everyone yawns. Lose, and everyone takes notice. Credit Sheffield Wednesday, though; they played crisp, aggressive football and look very likely to ascend to the Prem in short order if they can continue to play like this. After all, six or seven of our lads have been at one time or another starters in the Prem—and they were thrashed. It was quite clear from the squad-selection and the squad's selective efforts that we were looking ahead to the weekend, not to mention a week from this match, and couldn't quite be bothered to show up. Yes, that bespeaks a certain lack of determination, but the result hardly upends any apple-carts.

If there are any longer-term concerns, they may relate to the injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was replaced in the fifth minute by Walcott, who was then replaced barely 15 minutes later. Early reports suggest that neither suffered anything serious, but we'll have to wait until Friday's pre-Swansea presser to learn more. That, more than losing to Wednesday on Tuesday, is the most-pressing issue.

Speaking of pressing, could Mourinho press any harder? His Chelsea side was chock-a-block with first-teamers, with only Rahman and Obi Mikel registering as fringe-players. Begovic, Terry, Cahill, Willian, Zouma, Hazard, Oscar, Ramires, and Costa couldn't combine to overcome Stoke, needing a stoppage-time equaliser from Loic Remy to force 30 minutes of extra-time (during which Stoke were down to ten men) and then penalties. Stoke put all five past Begovic the Betrayer, and it came down to Eden "he's better than Ronaldo" Hazard. Hazard, he who earns more than his fair-share of penalty-shouts, had his chance, and he flubbed his line. Jack Butland batted way the Belgian Buttock, and, just like that, the cup-holders were ousted. That's two consecutive losses and four losses in six outings for Mourinho's Minions.

The pertinent question for Gooners is this: should we hope for Mourinho to stay or be sacked? Clearly, his paranoid delusions are backfiring. Despite his own protestations, this is a squad that looks be on a fast-track to oblivion. After the match, Mourinho protested against the idea that his players have given up on him, saying "you think the players did not give everything to win the game?" Maybe they did, José, but they came up short. It's almost as if you've wrung every last ounce of passion out of them, and the best that they have left over just ain't good enough.

At Arsenal's end, yes, we suffered a similar fate, but it came about through an excess of trust and faith. A hodge-podge of first-teamers, fringers, and youth couldn't find the chemistry to see off a spirited and determined Championship side. I'll still take that over the efforts of a first-team Prem side, suffering from a deficit of trust and respect, failing against another Prem side. You say that your players "tried everything" and yet they came away with nothing.

We at Arsenal tried a few things—entrusting some of our Academy players, seeing how they'd respond in a low-risk, low-reward situation, and hoping for the best—and it didn't quite pan out. However, whereas you emerge with a frustrated, flustered first team, we emerge with a galvanized, grittier second team.

Of course, the season is still young, and so I'll shy away from any bolder proclamations about its outcome. Chelsea could still mount an offensive on the Prem. Whether it does so with Mourinho as its manager is now an open question.