Arsenal pay price for complacency

Posted by Sam Limbert

On seeing the starting line-up for Tuesday's Capital One Cup quarter-final against Bradford City, it was both a surprise and a relief to see Arsene Wenger seemingly taking nothing to chance. The team he selected wouldn't have looked out of place in the Premier League, and was stronger than anything I could remember Wenger selecting against lower league opposition in the League Cup.

- Bradford stun Arsenal on penalties

However, most of those on the pitch looked complacent and seemed to think that they could just turn up at Valley Parade and not have to put much effort in to win. The fact that the majority of the first team were selected should have sent a message to the players that this was an important match, but you wouldn't have known it the way some meandered around the pitch and lacked the drive to actually make something happen for Arsenal.

On the other hand, it could also be seen as Wenger and the coaching staff not making it clear the team couldn't coast through the game. It took 87 minutes for them to properly wake up, and even then, the whole team weren't at the races.

Some perspective is required - penalty shootout defeats can happen. When it gets to that stage, it is a lottery. Keeper Wojciech Szczesny did his best to keep Arsenal in it, but hitting the post twice isn't good enough.

The frank reality however, is that Arsenal shouldn't have even reached a penalty shoot-out with a League Two side. The performance showed the lack of options again up front, as without Olivier Giroud, the two players who filled the central striker role were utterly embarrassing.

Gervinho's miss from one yard out summed up the night for Arsenal. It was the one moment he had to be decisive and yet somehow he couldn't control his leg well enough to guide the ball into the net. It should be baffling why Gervinho is still used as a central striker because that experiment has clearly failed. However, inexplicably, he still gets played there because there are no other vaguely decent options.

Marouane Chamakh was the only option, and his performance was also thoroughly underwhelming. Arsenal lacked a focal point the whole match. So, despite having plenty of possession, there were so few options when the midfield reached the edge of the box as there was so little movement in front of them.

Wenger should have signed an out and out striker rather than try to fit a square peg in a round hole. The patchwork squad with players playing out of position and trying to make it work can get you through certain situations, but can't be relied upon. Wenger was complacent on seeing it vaguely work in pre-season, and didn't give himself enough leeway for when the experiment was likely to fail.

The same goes for Aaron Ramsey, as he clearly isn't a winger. Only the really special players can make a conversion to different positions, and Gervinho isn't one. The problem also still remains that nothing can be done about the options available until January.

The only players to come out of the game with any credit are Jack Wilshere, Szczesny and Thomas Vermaelen. Wilshere was the only one trying to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but often over-played situations - although it's hard to blame him seeing Chamakh and Gervinho as the only players to whom he could pass.

It's slightly unfair to pick out Chamakh and Gervinho as villains because most of those in purple didn't look interested in wearing the Arsenal shirt. Fans don't just want better players, they want ones who actually show some heart and desire in sticky situations. The manager might have made mistakes in who he did or didn't sign, but he has few excuses for not motivating the team well enough for a League Cup quarterfinal.

After Vermaelen's well-taken equaliser, only one team was going to win it in extra time, but Arsenal didn't have enough players making the effort. Bradford defended well and were more of a team.

A realistic trophy chance has gone, the fingers are being pointed and very few at the club seem to have answers. Surely not having won a trophy since 2005 should have made it clear to Arsenal that a quarterfinal away to a determined League Two team was no place to be complacent.

Follow Sam Limbert on twitter @SamsMatchReport

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