Chris Sutton thinks Arsene Wenger’s team selection against Nottingham Forest was arrogant, and says the Arsenal manager should’ve picked his strongest team.
Wenger made nine changes to the side that started against Chelsea in midweek. Only Rob Holding and Ainsley Maitland-Niles kept their places from the London derby.
Even then, the manager probably only picked them because recent injuries left him no choice. Chris Sutton thinks that was the wrong selection policy.
“The emphasis has to be on playing a strong side in the cup games,” he told the BBC. “You can blood couple of youngsters, but make sure you have big hitters on the bench. It is arrogance beyond belief from Arsene Wenger.
“If you knew the game was going to be difficult, why would you not pick your strongest team? He has prioritised the League Cup over the FA Cup. Wenger has taken Nottingham Forest too lightly.”
In terms of not picking big players for the bench, I can see Sutton’s point. If you have Alexis Sanchez or Alexandre Lacazette who can come in later in the game, you have options if things go wrong.
You also put pressure on the starting eleven to perform, so they don’t get substituted. But it’s positive pressure, rather than “you’re our only hope, and if you screw up we’re out” pressure. But I can also see why Wenger didn’t name his strongest XI.
He clearly believes in the next generation of the academy, and he’s taking every chance to give them appearances. Against Forest, it was a risk that just didn’t work out. The manager has to take the blame for that.
I think Sutton’s going too far to suggest it’s arrogance not to pick a stronger starting team. Arsenal had games against Chelsea either side of the match in Nottingham. You can’t play your strongest team every game.
As so many teams proved over the festive period, your players get injured if you do. This was clearly the game the Gunners would have the best chance of winning with a weaker team.
Of course, they didn’t, and although that’s on Wenger, it’s also on the players who did start.