Arsenal were convincingly beaten by London rivals West Ham in what was undoubtedly the worst performance of the season from Arteta’s men.
The Hammers ran out 3-1 winners and never once looked like losing this Carabao Cup tie as they cruised into the last eight. An own goal from Ben White sent the Hammers on their way, before strikes from Mohammed Kudus and Jarrod Bowen ended the game as a contest. Martin Odegaard netted a late consolation for the visitors.
While elimination from the League Cup will sting a competitor of Arteta’s nature, the competition was always the bottom of his priorities. What will be a bigger concern for the Gunners boss is the dismal displays from a number of fringe players.
Regulars like Odegaard, William Saliba, Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli and Declan Rice all started the game from the bench. In their place started the likes of Jakub Kiwior, Leandro Trossard, Reiss Nelson, Fabio Vieira and Jorginho.
Kiwior is the only one of that aforementioned quartet that can come away with any credit, with some neat passing showing the technical quality the Poland international possesses. The other four were well below par, with Jorginho failing to bring the level of quality so often seen from Rice and Thomas Partey.
Trossard and Nelson both struggled to impact the game with any meaningful contribution, with both eventually being hooked before the full-time whistle was blown. Vieira did not build on the momentum gathered with last Saturday’s goal and looked lost in the middle of the park for much of the contest.
Some of the more optimistic Arsenal fans may brush over this result as a hiccup in a second-rate competition and move on. However, Arteta knows how important the entire squad, rather than a single starting eleven is when challenging for the league title.
Last season’s title charge capitulated around the time that Rob Holding had to replace an injured Saliba. Were any similar event to occur with one of Arsenal’s starters this season, the evidence presented from the potential replacements on Wednesday evening does not bode well for their ambitions.
During his post-match media duties, Arteta was asked if bringing on names like Odegaard, Saka and Martinelli was a deliberate attempt to send a message to the under-performing deputies. He insisted that he had “no message to send.”
The Gunners boss did however, admit he was “very disappointed” and called for his players to rally, putting the result behind them for the next game. “We have to use this pain for Saturday – that is for sure,” Arteta explained. “We need to use it in the best way possible to go to Newcastle and win.
Arteta defended the struggling stars in trademark fashion, insisting that a lack of minutes could have been an excuse for their poor performance, but don’t expect to see many of those fringe players in the line-up against Newcastle on Saturday evening.