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Sometimes one feels one is fated not to win and everything seems to go wrong. This was one of those nights for Arsenal as they stumbled to a hugely disappointing defeat in this Carabao Cup last 16  tie. Arsenal’s record in the League Cup, which has had many guises since it’s inception in 1961, is not stellar and tonight it was hard to decide if we actually wanted to forge forward towards a Wembley final or to free up space in a crowded programme where we are already recording more injuries than is healthy for our chances in major competitions. I’d like to see the League Cup as a  pre-season competition. It would generate interest and income and provide sides with a chance of an early  season trophy.

When I heard Smith Rowe had missed training my heart sank. I like the lad but he is fragility itself and one has to wonder whether someone so injury prone can ever be factored into Arteta’s long-term plans. He missed out today. We went with a side that showed wholesale changes from Saturday’s cakewalk against Sheffield United. White retained his role as did Kiwior, Gabriel provided some steel and Zinchenko started at left back but, as is his way (under instruction), rarely played there. Our midfield looked lightweight. Jorginho, about our eighth captain of the season, played alongside Vieira and Kai Havertz was no 10. Hat-trick hero Eddie Nketiah retained his place with Nelson and Trossard on the wings.

We looked the dominant side early on with West Ham, formerly one of the most creative and productive developers of football talent in England content to sit back and go long. An early chance from a free kick saw a good header from Havertz flicked over by Fabianski. A corner at the other end was more productive but not for us. Bowen drove it in and Ben White flicked it past Ramsdale who was clearly being fouled . No VAR meant that the chance of a referee like the hapless Simon Hooper getting the decision right was minimal .

West Ham 1 Arsenal 0 – White (own goal), 16 

Havertz moved into a threatening position immediately afterwards but failed to develop the opportunity and Nketiah should have done better after Zinchenko turned the ball across the area. But Arsenal’s build up play was ponderous and repetitive and lacked the thrust that a Saka or Ødegaard might have provided. 

Half-time: West Ham 1 Arsenal 0 

Immediately after the interval Bowen was slipped through a static defence after Jorginho’s hesitancy gifted dangerous possession to West Ham. Ramsdale made a fine save and White scooped the ball off the line. 

Shortly afterwards, Kudus fastened onto a long ball, beat the weak challenge of Zinchenko (a left back, really?) and with Gabriel more intent on avoiding handball, flashed a shot into the far corner. 

West Ham 2 Arsenal 0 – Kudus, 50

Alan Smith called the two goals soft and avoidable and the game highlighted just how inadequate some of our second string players are. One’s heart went out to the faithful Arsenal fans who had trekked to Stratford in indifferent weather to watch a team that were failing to match the physicality of their opponents. Poor Havertz (I’m not sure if I refer to his quality or am invoking sympathy for his seeming inability to add anything of real quality to the team) wandered round like a lost sheep. I genuinely cannot think of an Arsenal player who has been such a waste of money thus far (and I’m including Pepe who was far more exciting on his day). He lacks personality, has no obvious defined role and cannot possibly be worth anything like £65 million. That he is by far our best paid player is frankly ridiculous!

But it wasn’t Havertz’s fault when Bowen returned a White clearance with a fierce shot that deflected off Kiwior and found the corner of the net. 

West Ham 3 Arsenal 0 – Bowen, 60 

Damage limitation was the name of the game both in terms of the scoreline and ensuring that we didn’t suffer injury to key players . Several of us have doubted the quality of the likes of Vieira, Kiwior, Nelson, Jorginho and Zinchenko and this game underlined the need to keep our best players fit.

Arteta had already brought in Rice and Tomayisu before he added Saka and Martinelli on 65 minutes. Frankly one wonders if it was worth it, Progress in this cup would only force us to consider who to play going forward. We have much bigger fish to fry but we also have to accept that the squad has two quite distinct levels and this was highlighted as West Ham sat back and Arsenal huffed and puffed to little effect. Declan Rice was his usual industrious self. This was an embarrassment he could   have done without but his attitude was spot-on. He certainly can’t be accused of lacking personality

Some football matches can seem to last an eternity and this was one case in point. Both teams would gladly have packed things up after an hour but it gave the West Ham faithful the rare luxury of a comfortable victory over their London neighbours.

Ødegaard replaced Nketiah on 79 minutes in a change that by this stage seemed fairly pointless and I prayed for deliverance from injuries and that this neutered performance would not hinder our momentum when the league resumes at Newcastle. Ødegaard forced Fabianski into a decent save at his near post but our rhythm was non-existent despite the injection of quality. 

Ødegaard then raced through in injury time and finished past Fabianski underlining both his talent and attitude. If only Havertz, Trossard and Vieira had replicated a fraction of that drive or quality. 

West Ham 3 Arsenal 1 – Odegaard, 90 + 4 

Final Score: West Ham 3 Arsenal 1 

So concluded the most forgettable of nights and our thoughts go out to the Arsenal faithful including some of our own who had made their way to East London. We don’t yet know if this result was an irrelevance or an indication of vulnerability that may lead to a decline in our fortunes. The quality and consistency we have shown so far leads me to believe it is the former. Exiting to Brighton had little effect on our season last term and much may depend on how resilient we are at Newcastle on Saturday. Certainly it is ammunition for those who feel the squad is uneven in quality and one hopes that if we can afford to strengthen (and wasting £65m on Havertz compromises that aim), we can maintain a challenging position with tough games to come at home and in the Champions League.

Time to pour another drink and to hope that this was an aberration and nothing more.

34 Drinks to “A Night to Forget as Arsenal’s Understudies Fail to Impress”

  1. 1
    Depressedgooner says:

    Sadly you describe what I saw perfectly.

  2. 2
    Depressedgooner says:

    I am scared that Mikel is blowing all the goodwill generated by persisting with the failed experiments of both Havertz and team tinkering.

  3. 3
    North Bank Ned says:

    A fair summation, TTG, of a damp squib of a night not only forgettable but best forgotten.

    As Millicent Marting sang on TWTWTW, it’s over, let it go.


  4. 4
    ClockEndRider says:

    Pretty much the game I saw. Glad to have it confirmed as I thought perhaps I was suffering from altitude sickness having managed to hack all the way up to block 220 row 72. The team was pretty much as I expected but the performance wasn’t. It was every bit as soulless as the athletics bowl it was played in. Although the bar areas do offer a gin and tonic at only 11 ( count ‘em – eleven) pounds of the realm.
    We ought to remember that our hosts were beaten by Everton at the weekend and so a reaction was to be expected. Channeling my inner Edwin Starr, I have to concur on Havertz. What is he good for? An entirely rhetorical question, certainly thus far.
    The only good thing about the night was that it didn’t start raining on the longish trek back to a Hackney Wick station.
    At the end of the day, this was our least important match of the season remaining so if you’re going to lose, then that’s the game to do it. Fancy us on Saturday to beat the North East’s version of Tottnumb.

  5. 5
    ClockEndRider says:

    The one bright point of the evening, though, was the home fans singing, apparently without irony: “we know what we are, champions of Europe, we know what we are”!. How utterly embarrassing.

  6. 6
    OsakaMatt says:

    Thanks TTG, not a good game to have to
    report on. Get a result at Newcastle and
    this game will be forgotten immediately

  7. 7
    Ollie says:

    Cheers TTG. Yes, sadly thee game I saw too.
    CER @ 4 : The only good thing about the night was that it didn’t start raining on the longish trek back
    You mean you stayed dry all night? Oh. When are they going to start serving grappa at football grounds? (that would be 20 pounds, Sir).
    I am slightly worried by injuries and Newcastle next, and the ghost of Novembers past.

  8. 8
    BtM says:

    Really poor game and one that is better forgotten immediately. The front six that started wouldn’t be first choice for many teams in the PL. Very lightweight. I keep hoping to see something from Havertz. His early days are very reminiscent of Pepe’s.

    Thanks for the excellent review, TTG.

    Win at Newcastle.

  9. 9
    BtM says:

    When Partey is fit and plays at his best, the team plays really well. Wen he’s absent, the converse is true. Primary difference between last season and this I think. Or maybe we’re missing Granit?

  10. 10
    Bathgooner says:

    Accurate and speedy report.

    Flaccid first half performance with a glimmer from Nelson alone.

    Turgid second half performance relieved only by the arrival of an apparently reinvigorated and determined Ødegaard (hopefully a permanent resurrection).

    Disappointing result.

    Glad all Holics survived their venture to the Wild East.

    On to one of the biggest challenges of our season. Chins up, chaps.

  11. 11
    TTG says:

    Great points in 9 . The midfield is the problem . We have added one of the best midfielders in the world but taken two key constituents out- Partey and Xhaka. Xhaka found his niche as a left 8 but Havertz is almost non-existent and Jorginho is one paced and that pace is very slow .
    We either integrate Partey with Rice freeing up Odegaard or plunge into the transfer market but after wasting £65m will Josh Kroenke release funds ? It might be worth seeing if Charlie Patino can be recalled from Swansea if we can’t buy. It will be a steep learning curve but he will add more presence than Havertz .

  12. 12
    Countryman100 says:

    Thanks TTG. A very disappointing night at the London Stadium. Just getting to our seats was difficult enough. A crash on the M11 delayed us but we still arrived at the stadium 20 minutes before kickoff. We then had to endure 4 lengthy queues (including one for the loo) where we were subject to several body searches and ticket checks (neither applied in the loo you’ll be glad to hear). The last, walking from the concourse to block 118 in the lower tier to reach our seats, was frankly dangerous. The game had kicked off by then and there was an eager queue pressing from behind. We were channeled between two barriers where two stewards were conducting yet another ticket check. I was genuinely concerned that I would be knocked to the ground and trampled underfoot. Have we learned nothing from Hillsborough?

    When we reached our row 10 seats, the view was similar to my North Bank perch and the atmosphere marginally better. TTG describes the game well. But I want to talk about Declan Rice. When he was subbed on, late in the game, with West Ham winning 3-0 he was roundly booed. He was then booed every time he touched the ball. Classless.

    The performance was unacceptable. It must improve. I will be in Newcastle for Saturday’s game, which, you will be glad to hear, will involve a curry after the game.

    Let us speak no more of this grim night.

  13. 13
    Countryman100 says:

    A clarification: when I say the atmosphere was marginally better, I do not mean better than the North Bank, but marginally better than the last time I was in the London Stadium, when we were high in the upper tier gods where CER was this time.

  14. 14
    Doctor Faustus says:

    A keenly observed summary TTG of an entirety forgettable evening.

    We have been playing well only in patches this season, and mostly some sporadic moments of brilliance and a defensive solidity kept our season going. A day like this was always on the cards, and I am glad that we got it out of the system without negatively impacting PL and CL runs. We have a couple of very important matches coming up — the next Wednesday’s home leg against Sevilla is a must-win too to ensure we will top the group — and I was glad Saka-Martinelli-Ødegaard-Saliba all got rest.

    While Trossard was completely ineffective yesterday, he already has put in some fine performances this season and is the kind of player who will continue to make key contributions. Vieira and Havertz worry me. We need them to play much better, and starting from tomorrow, if we are to be able to use our squad meaningfully.

    Poor Ramsdale, without making any mistakes had to concede three goals. He looks nowhere near to his ebullient personality.

    I don’t think if either of Partey or Jesus are unavailable for long stretches of time we will be able to truly compete across PL and CL.

  15. 15
    TTG says:

    I have not been to West Ham once since they moved . A magazine I wrote for took me as a retirement present so I was in the corporate bit
    The loo in the corporate bit was beautifully appointed, tiled in claret and blue with the club crest on the wall. My neighbour at the urinal pointed to the decorations and said ‘ Marvellous innit ! We pay £3 million a year and they even tile the khazi!God bless Boris! ‘
    Classless club run by a porn baron

  16. 16
    TTG says:

    Meant to say I have been only once ! Senility !

  17. 17
    bt8 says:

    Impeccably reported and very fairly assessed, TTG. That performance combined with our first half at Chelsea and our late collapses against Fulham and Lens give me real concern, a surprising situation as we have yet to lose in the league. I haven’t seen every game this season but watched Havertz closely last night and I was quite disappointed. The gulf between our starters and these fellas (Vieira and Jorginho included) was alarming and our response to going three goals down seemed to be to crawl into a hole. I hope the carryover effects can be kept to a minimum but losing like that is never a good thing.

  18. 18
    North Bank Ned says:

    BtM@9 &TTG@11: No argument that Partey adds flow and progression to our play. A midfield comprising him, Rice and Ødegaard would be formidable. However, Partey’s susceptibility to injury makes the possibility of that such a rarity that prudence demands an alternative.

    Patino, or one of the other youngsters (Nwaneri, Lewis-Skelly or Gower, in the longer term), may be it; Patino is a lot bulkier than when we last saw him in our colours and is doing well enough on loan at Swansea, where he now plays as a DM, to earn an England U21 call-up.

    Had Havertz had the same instant impact as Rice, one might argue that we could afford to wait for home-gown talent to come through. Yet the hard-headed view has to be that we should buy a PL-proven, or at least PL-ready, replacement for Partey in January.

    I remain more hopeful than many in this fine establishment that Havertz will come good, although my faith is being tested. As I have mentioned before, he does well in many of the unshowy things that managers appreciate but has been undeniably below par so far in those that fans want to see, like goals and assists.

  19. 19
    North Bank Ned says:

    I also second Dr. F’s words of sympathy @14 for Ramsdale.

  20. 20
    Ollie says:

    I’ll third them.

  21. 21
    Trev says:

    Thanks, TTG – unfortunately the fame I saw – late on catch up. Was it worth it ?

    And thanks to Scruz for the preview which I didn’t get to read in time at all. Some of us still have to work 😉

    Very poor last night, as it will be while we take forever to pass the ball around in front of the opposition defence. The difference was clear to see when Odegaard came on and got himself and others running past the ball. All too late though.
    On the plus side the lack of this competition will hopefully save us a few injuries – and a second trip to Anfield in 4 days in the week before Christmas.

  22. 22
    Trev says:

    And more sympathy for Ramsdale here too.
    He almost had his shirt ripped off at the first goal and the combination of a straying, underperforming midfield and defence did him no favours.

    He was the player’s keeper of the year in the Premier League last season. We are in danger of ruining his confidence for the sake of a keeper whose stats – as we are often informed – are better than Ramsdale’s but whose presence and performance are most definitely not.

  23. 23
    BtM says:

    Re Ramsdale, strangely (I’m an enthusiast) Aaron’s demeanour gave me the impression I was watching our second string keeper last night. His luck was most certainly not in. I hope he’s really up for the fight for first place.

  24. 24
    Trev says:

    BtM, he would be superhuman not to be looking dispirited after what has happened this season. And he was, after all, selected for a team showing six changes which I think always sends the signal that this is a scratch side, if not an entirely second string.

    Zinchenko is, I hear repeatedly, a great midfielder. For me he spends too much time perfecting his Twisty McNoscore impersonation before releasing what are sometimes very clever passes – but all too often too late. As a full back he’s hopeless.
    Havertz and Vieira show nothing in terms of personality, presence and fight and were easily powered out of the game last night. Weak, weak weak.

  25. 25
    BtM says:

    Yep, good with that on Ramsdale, Trev. I agree too that Zinchenko is a poor LB. I think he’s a really talented player though, and I’d be very happy to see him start as our midfield maestro in what used to be known as the 10 position, but while my back was turned, seems to have become the left 8. So Partey, Rice, Zinchenko would be an interesting starting trio in the event that our captain was feeling ‘blue’. Mikel’s wedded to the inverted LB though which is why KT is healing in San Sebastián.

  26. 26
    TTG says:

    We didn’t have CL football last year and although we are behind the Totts when we were out in front at the same stage in the league last season we’ve lost one less game . We went out of the Carabao early last season too .
    But this season doesn’t feel at the moment anywhere near as exciting as last season did . I think Arteta is tending to over complicate things eg the goalkeeper situation . I’d feel sorry for Ramsdale if we’d signed Allison or Ederson but accept a ruthless push for improvement but Raya doesn’t suggest he’s any better ..yet .
    As several have said midfield is the problem and weak is the word that comes to mind . We’ve been overpowered at Lens, Chelsea and West Ham and Ned’s analysis of our options outline what we might be forced to do .
    I had dinner with some Holics recently and we discussed Havertz. I asked a knowledgeable Holic what he would have offered Chelsea ( given they were being squeezed to unload players ) for Kai. His figure of £20 million tallied exactly with mine . I might have gone to £25m but £65 m is preposterous. We could have signed Szoboszlai , Maddison , McAllister , Kudus or Alvarez to name five off the top of my head for less and got so much more . When I did the early season piece I typed ‘ my optimism for the season is tempered by the Havertz deal . I think it may prove a catastrophically expensive purchase ‘. I then deleted it because I thought I was being too gloomy and C100 is always chiding me ( rightly ) about this . But it could prove to be a pivotal moment and I am gobsmacked that our system of transfer scrutiny allowed it through . Clearly Arteta really wanted him but one would have thought Edu didn’t have to do such an extravagant deal . It really cuts our wriggle room for January additions . If we sold Havertz now ( to who?) does anyone believe we could even get £20 million for him ? Meanwhile Liverpool have rebuilt their midfield very effectively.
    Arteta is a great coach but will need also his motivational skills to ensure we don’t lose momentum. Saturday is a very tough test

  27. 27
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@21: Good point about dodging two trips to Anfield in four days. Beating them once there is going to be hard enough. Klopp has got his side back in its groove again and has rebuilt his midfield in mid-flight somewhat more effectively than we have done.

    TTG@26: Cheer up over Havertz. It will just take time. Think how many years it took for an Arsenal manager to get a tune out of Xhaka as a left 8. 🙂

  28. 28
    BtM says:

    @27 Ned, Xhaka arrived in glory as a left 8 via innumerable red cards, a complete inability to tackle, an armband ejaculation and a spell at LB where his performance was a smidgeon below that of Andre the Elephant (who famously scored a goal, somewhere important, I can’t remember where, but no doubt the Monks will, while playing LB – not the Monks, Andre). If Kai has that career path ahead of him, we may wait for quite some time. If he’s successful, the wait may, or perhaps not, have been worthwhile.

  29. 29
    ClockEndRider says:

    Just watched the highlights from last night. 1st goal a clear foul on the keeper. Second, a total fluke touch by Kudus to “control” the ball past the defender. The third a deflection which probably meant Ramsdale didn’t save.
    Difficult to see from row 72 of the upper stand last night. Poor as we were, the chances-of such a confluence of fortuitousness occurring again is slight. I am very much looking forward to Saturday, where if we turn up, I rather fancy us. And to playing West Ham at the Emirates on 28th Dec where I think we will batter them.

  30. 30
    bt8 says:

    Re: the “left 8”: Is it called that because we also have a right 8? If so why does nobody talk about our right eight position? It’s always left 8 this and left 8 that, enough to drive a normal person bonkers. 😵‍💫

  31. 31
    TTG says:

    We feel your pain !
    The midfield positions tend to be based on how far advanced players are up the pitch . In the old days of 2-3-5 there were four midfield players – two basically defensive half-backs ( 4 and 6 ) and two inside forwards (8 and 10)
    Now we tend to have three midfield players – a 6 who plays in front of the defence ( Partey last season) , an 8 who links attack and defence and a 10 who is a creator and basically plays behind the attack. Arteta complicates this by inverting full backs and moving them into midfield .
    Our left 8 arose primarily because we used Xhaka as a left-sided midfielder and this balanced the side and provided left-sided cover for our left back . When this was Tierney he bombed forward and the 8 covered for him. Your 8 can play on the right and if he did this might affect the positioning of the 10 who links with the attack.
    Hope that’s all perfectly clear. There will be a test paper tomorrow! 😀

  32. 32
    North Bank Ned says:

    Should never have stopped playing 1-1-8, TTG. The rot started as soon as teams started playing 2-1-7. A left and right-sided full-back! Before you knew it, it was 2-2-6, with a left and right-sided half-back, as well. 2-3-5? Don’t even get me started… 🙂

    BtM@28: My comment was tongue in cheek and directed to TTG, who ran out of taxis waiting to take Xhaka to the airport. Both Andre’s Arsenal goals were massive. In September 2011, he scored in the 2–1 win over Olympiacos in the Champions League and the following May scored an equaliser against West Brom in the league before Laurent Koscielny got the winner. How soon we forget, although in his case, why wouldn’t we…

  33. 33
    BtM says:

    Sadly, Ned, I think I’ll never be able to forget Andre or any of the other bargain basement defensive misfits – Mustafi, Kolasinac, Lichsteiner, Sokratis and their likes – that Arsene was inspired to usher into his back fours. Stuff of nightmares. Good job by the monks on Andre’s goals. I thought he only scored one but it turns out he was double the value I’d remembered.

  34. 34
    Bathgooner says: