Half-arsed Arsenal take lead from Arsene Wenger on dress-down Wednesday
Tom Adams was at The Emirates to witness a flat display from Arsenal in their defeat to Southampton and can’t escape the idea that Arsene Wenger is just not up for the League Cup…
Arsene Wenger is rarely seen without a sharply-tailored suit and tie hanging from his gangly frame so when he appears on the touchline looking like a man who has just nipped out to Londis before it closes to get some milk for next morning's breakfast it surely says something about the importance he is attributing to the occasion. Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that Arsenal adopted a similarly casual, even slovenly, attitude to an EFL Cup quarter-final that they deservedly lost 2-0 to Southampton, with Wenger watching on in grey tracksuit bottoms and bulky white trainers. The manager staged his own dress-down Wednesday but it just transmitted all the wrong signals as Arsenal effectively failed to turn up for work.
Southampton's Jordy Clasie celebrates scoring their first goal with team matesReuters
The League Cup has never been a competition which Wenger has treated with reverence. It has been used effectively as a training slope for some of his bright young upstarts, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie the best of the many prospects who have had a grounding in the competition, and Wenger has lost two finals, to Chelsea and Birmingham, but after two decades he doesn't look any closer to really taking it seriously. Smart-casual? Arsenal were decidedly more of the latter than the former, particularly in a woefully insipid first half as they conceded twice and barely looked like they had any interest in contesting the game on a freezing November night in North London. A smattering of boos at half-time and full-time told their own story as Arsenal failed to make it 20 games unbeaten in all competitions.
Arsenal's Lucas Perez, Gabriel Paulista and Aaron Ramsey hold a banner as they observe a minutes silence as respect for the victims of the Colombia plane crash containing the Chapecoense players and staffReuters
Finding inspiration elsewhere on a night which otherwise lacked it, Gabriel enjoyed one of his better performances for Arsenal. He attacked the ball with confidence, brought it out from the back with style and made six interceptions. True, he was fortunate that Shane Long shot woefully wide after rolling the Brazilian in the second half, but an equally abiding memory was his 30-yard sprint across the turf to deftly flick the ball off the toe of an opponent in the first half. So too a shimmy to lose his marker under pressure. Alex Iwobi was the only other player to ascend above mediocrity as he brought intermittent sizzle to the Arsenal attack but this was unmistakably a performance lacking in all departments and considerations. In short, it was a half-arsed display from a team who looked like they barely cared and a manager who emitted the same sentiment.