The only way for Arsenal to justify their embarrassing performance in Thursday’s 2-1 defeat to Ostersunds FK, was to deliver a competitive display in Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final.
Instead, strikes from Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and David Silva saw opponents Manchester City win that game 3-0. The encounter, which became one-sided in the second half, provided further proof, as if it were needed, of the gulf in quality between the two sides.
The manner the Arsenal defence crumbled for the first goal was pure schoolboy: Shkodran Mustafi, all 6ft of him was bundled too easily by a smaller man in Aguero, who promptly netted the opener to register his 30th goal of the season.
They had one let off in the second half, when Kompany’s shot was deflected behind yet from the resultant corner, Laurent Koscielny allowed the same player to get goal side of him and score. Calum Chambers, who missed his interception for that goal, was also at fault seven minutes later, failing to close down Silva for the third.
Granted, the game might have transpired differently had the disappointing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang prodded home from close-range early on, but events thereafter were inexcusable.
So agreed Manchester United legend, Gary Neville, who laid into the players for lacking the quality and motivation needed to play for a club of Arsenal’s stature.
The familiar sign of Arsenal falling and wilting under pressure came to the fore again. They played as though they knew they would lose the game without offering any of the ability they are normally associated with.
Granit Xhaka shied away from collecting the ball off the defence and similarly, Mesut Ozil’s body language wasn’t in line with the significance of the occasion. Jack Wilshere showed some heart but lacked the athleticism to match while Aaron Ramsey appeared to stop playing in the second half – a criticism not unique to the Welshman.
It is high time the Arsenal board realised the folly of keeping Arsene Wenger, who didn’t have any tactical nous to outsmart the innovative Pep Guardiola. The players should have done a lot better too, considering Arsenal have not won this trophy in 25 years.
The competition has produced a couple of one-sided finals this century. Manchester United beat Wigan 4-0 back in 2006, before Swansea swept aside League Two Bradford seven years later. Never since the League Cup’s founding in 1961 however, has a final clash between two top six sides in England – supposedly at a similar level – seen one team win by three or more goals.
It was embarrassing for fans of Arsenal to watch the way their club just gave up without any fight, grit or determination. It would seem that Wenger has come to the end of the cycle at Arsenal, as time and time again, his players let the club down on the big stage.
Surely, now is the time for change.