It was a late October, Capital One cup Tuesday evening when Chelsea’s woes continued, Everton needed penalties to see off Norwich and Leicester succumbed to Championship Hull, but where Arsenal’s kids were way out of their depth and thoroughly humiliated at Hillsborough.
The Arsene Wenger philosophy has clearly been drilled into these youngsters from a young age, 70% possession suggests nothing else. The lack of a creative spark in midfield was evident and it resulted in Sheffield Wednesday cruising to an unlikely 3-0 victory. So clear to Arsenal fans now must be the necessity to keep the likes of Ozil and Sanchez fit for the rest of the season, or face reverting to their old ways of not being able to break teams down who are set up primarily to defend. Without the vision and guile of Ozil in the final third of the pitch, without Alexis Sanchez’s exquisite dribbling ability in and around the box, Arsenal could lack the final piece of magic often needed for Arsenal’s goals.
It is also looking likely that Theo Walcott may miss some action in the coming weeks due to pulling up short, moments after replacing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who went off with a similar injury. Walcott’s absence could hit Arsenal’s attacking vigor hard as not only has he been scoring goals himself, with seven in all competitions this season, but he has given defenses the run around, allowing Olivier Giroud to come on to exploit tiring defenders, bullying them and bringing others into play with phenomenal hold up play. It has given Arsenal an effective way to change the game, scoring off the bench against both Watford and Bayern Munich, and when awarded with a starting spot for Everton’s visit to the Emirates, he responded with the opening goal for the Gunners. Opposition defenders will be praying that Walcott is missing for a while though, as having Giroud as the only fit and firing striker will mean oppositions can hold a much higher line, limiting space, knowing that Giroud hasn’t got the pace to get in behind. With Wenger being unable to confidently swap the striking option, breaking down defensively sound teams could prove difficult.
Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s injuries not only spell bad news for Arsenal, but for England too as they add to the nation’s long list of injuries. The Arsenal pair’s setbacks takes the number of players who are in and around the squad to 14, the most notable including Henderson, Wilshere, Shaw and Sturridge. It means that some at least may not find their best form this season, leading into the Euros next summer.
Arsenal’s worst loss by lower league opposition in 56 years will make some laugh, but fans would be wise to let them. Should they carry on their impressive start to the league and gather momentum from their solid performance against Bayern Munich last week, the North Londoners could begin to emerge as the stand out British team, especially after Chelsea appear to be close to dropping out of the title race before November. Keeping star players fit is already proving to be difficult, but should they manage to play a large chunk of games, fans should expect expect the title, or second at the least, as no Premier League defence can handle them when playing at their best.