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Nottingham Forest 4–2 Arsenal: Teenager exceptional as team selection bites Arsene Wenger



Nottingham Forest produced the shock of the FA Cup third-round weekend as the Championship outfit stunned 13-time winners and current holders Arsenal at the City Ground on Sunday evening.

Heading into the tie without a manager after the recent sacking of Mark Warburton, Forest went ahead early-on through defender Eric Lichaj only for Arsenal to immediately respond from a set-piece of their own when Per Mertesacker reacted quickest to prod the ball home with a deft finish.

The hosts managed to get their noses in front once again before the break, with Lichaj this time producing a sumptuous half-volley into the top corner to leave David Ospina rooted to the ground.

Things got even better for the Championship side in the second-half too when Ben Brereton tucked home from the spot following a clumsy foul from Rob Holding, although Danny Welbeck pounced fastest on a mistake from goalkeeper Jordan Smith to set up a tense final ten minutes.

But, in the games biggest moment of controversy, Mathieu Debuchy was deemed to have hauled down Armand Traore inside the area to give Forest the chance to seal it before Kieran Dowell’s resulting penalty was allowed to stand by referee Jon Moss despite claims the ball was hit twice.

Joe Worrall was then shown a straight red card for Forest after a rash challenge but it mattered not as the Championship side held out for a remarkable and thrilling win over the 2017 FA Cup winners.

Magnificent Forest stun holders Arsenal

What a match, what a result for manager-less Nottingham Forest.

The Championship side have been without a man in charge since Mark Warburton was sacked late last month but caretaker boss Gary Brazil worked wonders on Sunday afternoon as his youthful, energetic Forest side had too much for an Arsenal team that have won the FA Cup more than anyone else in the competition’s history.

From the first whistle you could tell that the hosts were going to give it a go against their more esteemed opponents, putting in fierce challenges and pushing numbers forward when on the attack.

And they were led by a core of players under the age of 23 – five of which came from the Club’s academy under Brazil himself – who put their heart and soul into 90 minutes of breath-taking action.

Their 18-year-old striker Ben Brereton was the stand-out figure, leading the line superbly and running rings around Per Mertesacker and Rob Holding all afternoon with his pace and his ability to hold the ball up on the half-way line, but it was an exceptional team effort from across the park.

It’s been a long time since Forest were amongst the Premier League’s – and Europe’s – elite, and whilst those glory days are still a long way off considering the Club’s 14th place position in the Championship there’s a group of young players coming through that offer a huge amount of hope.

Arsenal lose their safety blanket

But whilst the hosts were superb across the park, Arsenal were woeful.

For a side that have won three of the last four editions of the competition, most recently beating Chelsea in last year’s final, they were largely outplayed and outthought by a more determined side.

The big worry for the Gunners now though is that, other than the immediate embarrassment of their defeat, Wenger has lost his safety blanket of the FA Cup that has been his salvation for the past few years.

There’s no disputing that Arsenal’s Premier League credentials have dropped off in recent times and it’s fair to say that if they hadn’t won the FA Cup last year it would most likely have signalled the end of the Frenchman’s long tenure in charge at the Emirates.

This time around there’s no chance of using that ‘get out of jail’ card, and the prospects of earning any silverware in the Europa League appear a tough task heading into the knock-out stages considering that the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid and Napoli have all dropped down from the Champions League.

With the Gunners five points off Liverpool with 16 games left of the season the pressure is well and truly on for Wenger now, and failure to finish in the top-four could prove to be the final nail in his coffin.

Wenger’s team selection comes back to haunt him

A big part of the post-match post-mortem of Arsenal’s display will revolve around Wenger’s team selection on the day, deciding to leave his big guns out of the squad completely for the match.

Neither Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil nor Alexis Sanchez were anywhere to be seen and his decision to not even put his star players on the bench is one that ultimately came back to haunt him.

Instead Wenger opted for a mix of youth and experience, mixing the likes of Per Mertesacker, Rob Holding, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck with up-and-coming youngsters like Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Reiss Nelson and Chris Willock, and whilst a weakened side has worked for him time and time again in the FA Cup on the day it was a combination that served up very little.

To put it simply the more experienced players didn’t show up at all, with both Mertesacker and Holding particularly coming in for criticism for the way they were bullied by Nottingham Forest’s 18-year-old striker Ben Brereton.

They were abject across the park, with Walcott, Welbeck and Alex Iwobi creating next-to-nothing against a Championship defence, and they had nobody to turn to with their bench full of youngsters.

It was a harrowing afternoon for Wenger – who tasted third-round defeat for the first time since taking over from Arsenal in October 1996 – and it can’t even be said that it was a reserve team beaten by Forest considering the starting eleven shared 633 Premier League caps between them.

It’s now critical that they put Sunday behind them as fast as possible and look for a rousing response against Chelsea in their Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg, otherwise their whole season could start to unravel all-too familiarly in the new year.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @96PearsonW.


Tottenham Hotspur fans react to Danny Welbeck dive

Tottenham Hotspur fans were not pleased with Danny Welbeck’s dive v AC Milan.



Arsenal successfully knocked AC Milan out of the Europa League last night with a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium. The hero of the night was England forward Danny Welbeck. The striker scored two goals as Arsenal completed a deserved 5-1 aggregate victory over the Rossoneri.

But Milan had taken an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu’s bamboozling long-range strike. Arsenal, at that stage, were looking on the ropes. Welbeck though won and then dispatched a penalty to level the scoring. The word ‘won’ being the optimum word.

Welbeck dived for the penalty, there is no doubt about that. Ricardo Rodriguez barely breathed on the Arsenal man, who tumbled to the ground hopefully. When the penalty was given, he looked in disbelief.

Tottenham Hotspur’s English midfielder Dele Alli (2L) is booked for a dive during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

For Tottenham Hotspur fans it was a moment they did not appreciate.

Spurs have seen Dele Alli victimised throughout the season, and some would say rightly so, for his diving. There is no doubt that the England midfielder has dived this season and not many Tottenham fans would suggest not.

But the anger here lies with what Tottenham fans believe is hypocrisy. There is also a certain level or irony given a thinly veiled dig by Arsene Wenger against Spurs’ players this season.

After the highly controversial 2-2 draw at Anfield, where Harry Kane was accused of diving v Liverpool, Wenger had this to say, as reported by the BBC:

“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it.

“But English players have learned very quickly and might be the masters now.”


“Sometimes players play a little bit with the rules. How far can you go? That is down to the referees.”

With Arsenal their next Premier League opponents, Arsene Wenger’s barb was not hard to see.

When that statement came out Tottenham fans quickly pointed out occasions when Arsenal’s English stars had been caught diving. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were prominent examples. Now, in Welbeck, Tottenham have seen another.

Arsenal fans will be happy that their team have booked a place in the next round of the Europa League. On balance it was more than a fair result as over two legs Arsenal outplayed the Italian giants.

But the Welbeck moment certainly put an asterix on the game for Spurs fans.

Here is some of the best reaction from Twitter…

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AC Milan

Victory in Milan, but is this another false dawn for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger?

Arsenal were triumphant in Milan despite their recent miserable form.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.

They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.

These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.

Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.

(Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.

The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.

Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.

Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.

Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.

The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.

It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.

When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.

If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.

There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.

Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.

It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.

It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.

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Brighton 2-1 Arsenal: Three talking points from the Amex

Arsenal lost for a fourth successive game as Brighton & Hove Albion bullied their opponents into submission.

Rob Meech



Photo: Getty Images

Arsenal suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as Brighton & Hove Albion took a giant leap towards Premier League survival.

The pressure on Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, which has intensified since the turn of the year, looks set to reach new heights after another dismal day at the office for his charges.

Goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray put the Seagulls in control before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.

Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Arsenal were unable to muster an equaliser.

For Brighton, this was a huge result that lifted them seven points clear of the relegation zone.

Here are three talking points…

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Is beleaguered Wenger’s position now untenable?

It lurches from one disaster to another for Wenger.

He probably thought the nadir had been reached after last weekend’s limp performance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City, when his future became the main topic of debate.

The Frenchman would have hoped for a reaction from his players in the subsequent fixtures.

Instead, his side were brushed aside against City in the Premier League before producing another sub-standard display here against Brighton.

Added to their shock Europa League reversal at home to minnows Ostersunds, it is the first time Arsenal have lost four successive matches since 2002.

After last season’s FA Cup triumph, Wenger penned a new contract that takes him through to the summer of 2019.

Now, however, it’s difficult to see how he can last beyond the end of the current campaign.

Perhaps only by lifting the Europa League, which would automatically qualify Arsenal for the Champions League, could Wenger realistically remain in situ.

Even then, it may not be enough. His players look devoid of any confidence and need an injection of new ideas.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Brighton take a massive step towards safety 

The focus will understandably be on Arsenal, but Brighton’s display should not be overlooked.

This victory extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to four games and has all but banished thoughts that they might be dragged into a relegation scrap.

Yes, it was a good time to face Arsenal, but Chris Hughton’s side made a fast start with two early goals that went a long way to recording their first win over the Gunners since 1982.

Brighton’s performance bore all the hallmarks of their season so far.

Despite being one of the lowest scorers in the division, they took their chances when they came, exploiting Arsenal’s weakness from set pieces and aerial balls.

In the second half, the home side remained very organised defensively, which was key when the Gunners upped the tempo.

Modest and unassuming, Hughton has done a terrific job on the south coast.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Defensive shortcomings continue to haunt Arsenal 

Wenger has regularly spoken of his belief that Arsenal cannot compete on a level playing field with the likes of Manchester City.

And while his side’s record against fellow ‘Big Six’ clubs is regularly scrutinised, the Gunners’ results against the lesser lights have not been good enough for a club with Champions League aspirations.

In 2018 alone, Arsenal have been beaten by Swansea City, Bournemouth and now Brighton in the Premier League, while losing to Nottingham Forest and Ostersunds in cups.

A lack of leadership has long been an issue on the pitch and it’s an area Wenger has consistently ignored.

Defensively, the Gunners are too easy to bully.

Take Shkodran Mustafi’s defending for the first goal in the Carabao Cup final last weekend, for example.

Particularly away from home, Arsenal are prone to imploding.

Despite the attacking talent Wenger has at his disposal, his failure to invest in proven defenders at the top level looks set to cost him dearly.

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