Arsenal’s defeat to West Ham in the Carabao Cup fourth round was a bitter pill to swallow for Mikel Arteta, the players themselves and the travelling supporters.
This unexpected 3-1 loss not only broke their impressive domestic unbeaten streak but also highlighted a concerning issue within the squad – the performance of some fringe players.
The match began with a sense of anticipation at the London Stadium. While no one expected West Ham to defeat Arsenal, the manner in which the Gunners succumbed to their opponents was a cause for worry. Arteta had made six changes to the lineup that had comfortably dispatched Sheffield United just days earlier, starting Aaron Ramsdale in goal, Gabriel Magalhaes, Jorginho, Fabio Vieira, Reiss Nelson, and Leandro Trossard. However, these changes did little to inspire confidence, and the disappointment that followed cast a shadow of doubt over their future roles within the squad.
Arsenal fringe players fail to impress in disappointing defeat at West Ham
Before this defeat, Arsenal had been enjoying a strong season, with only one prior loss to RC Lens in the Champions League. However, their Carabao Cup outing took a different turn as the team struggled to find their rhythm and were eventually outplayed by a West Ham side on a losing streak.
The key moment of the match came in the form of an unfortunate own goal by Ben White. Although White’s own goal was regrettable, there was an incident of a shirt tug in the area during the corner that preceded it. Replays indicated that Aaron Ramsdale’s shirt had been pulled by Tomas Soucek, but with VAR not in use, the incident remained unreviewed, leaving Arsenal feeling hard done by.
The second half brought even more misery for the Gunners, who seemed to be devoid of ideas and energy. West Ham seized control of the match, and within 20 seconds of the second half, they were knocking on the door again. Arsenal were fortunate that White managed to clear the ball off the line, but their luck didn’t last long.
West Ham’s second goal was the result of a well-placed ball over the top, catching Oleksandr Zinchenko out of position. Mohammed Kudus capitalised on the opportunity, leaving Ramsdale with no chance in goal. The third goal, which effectively ended Arsenal’s hopes of a comeback, came when White’s header was met by Jarrod Bowen on the edge of the box and his shot found the back of the net with a slight deflection.
In an attempt to turn the tide, Arteta introduced some of his first-team stars, but it was too little, too late. Martin Odegaard did manage to net a consolation goal with the final kick of the game, but the damage was already done.
This match underscored Arteta’s scepticism about relying on his fringe players. While one can argue that every team has its off days, this performance did little to ease Arteta’s concerns. Apart from Ben White’s own goal, there were shortcomings in the team’s overall defensive efforts, notably Zinchenko’s inability to challenge Kudus for the second goal and the third goal which didn’t reflect well on Ramsdale.
Looking ahead, Arteta will undoubtedly need these players to contribute as the Premier League and Champions League schedules become more demanding. However, their display in the Carabao Cup has failed to make a convincing case for future inclusion beyond serving as mere squad members.
This defeat is a wake-up call for the team. It exposed the limitations of the squad players and highlighted the need for improvement and consistency, especially in the face of a challenging season ahead. Arsenal’s success will depend on the ability of the entire squad, and these players must rise to the occasion if they wish to remain a valuable part of the team’s future.