Arsenal drop out of the Carabao Cup with a flat performance in a 3-1 loss to West Ham. Mikel Arteta’s heavily rotated side lacked cohesion and appeared disinterested at times. The Hammers weren’t much better, save for a player here and there, but David Moyes’ side got the fortunate bounces and the match went their way. The xG on the evening was 1.15 to 0.61 in favor of the Gunners, for what it’s worth.
West Ham’s first goal wouldn’t have stood if the competition had VAR at this stage. Tomas Soucek clearly grabbed and held Aaron Ramsdale’s shirt, preventing him from either coming for the ball or getting across to his near post to stop Ben White’s misplaced header that wound up an own goal.
On the home side’s second, I am convinced that what looked a brilliant first touch from Mohamed Kudus was actually him missing the ball with his intended foot and getting fortunate that it hit his trail leg and bounced into his path. The finish was tidy, though. Zinchenko got beaten badly, Gabriel was slow to cover and the shot went through his legs, which led to Ramsdale reacting late. Kudus was probably the best player on the pitch, to be fair to him.
And on their third, Jarrod Bowen’s shot took a wicked deflection less than ten yards away from Ramsdale. There wasn’t anything he could do. To underline the point that it was just one of those nights, a shot from Martin Ødegaard much later in the match (at 3-0 so it wouldn’t have made much of a difference) took a similar deflection that steered it directly to Lukas Fabianski’s waiting arms.
Sometimes that is the way football goes. All things considered, it’s perfectly fine that it happened to Arsenal in a match that doesn’t matter rather than one that does.
The most disappointing thing about the match wasn’t the result. I really can’t be bothered to care that much about the Carabao Cup. It’s that players like Alex Zinchenko, Eddie Nketiah, Leandro Trossard, and Fabio Vieira put in shifts that ranged from unimpressive and anonymous to actively, glaringly bad.
Zinchenko is in real danger of losing his spot to Takehiro Tomiyasu, and you can’t blame Mikel Arteta for the decision. The Ukrainian’s defensive shortcomings are painfully obvious, much more so this season than last. Eddie Nketiah hasn’t scored away from the Emirates in nearly 20 matches. Leandro Trossard isn’t a touchline winger and struggles when asked to be one. And Fabio Vieira did nothing of note when he needs to be seizing his limited chances to make a positive impression.
Both Reiss Nelson and Kai Havertz put in strong performances. Hopefully at some point if Nelson keeps looking solid, Mikel Arteta will trust him to give Bukayo Saka more time to rest. I’d like to see Havertz lead the line against Newcastle, but I think it will be Nketiah.
Martin Ødegaard had a bright cameo after missing time with a hip problem. He scored a meaningless goal for the Gunners with a neat finish that hopefully is a sign that he’ll be back close to his best. Arsenal need him playing at a high level.
And that’s that. On to the next. Massive game at Newcastle at the weekend.