When I predicted the lineups ahead of Tuesday night’s game, I was not expecting to see so many senior players rested, but Arsene Wenger showed us just how much the league title this season means by resting Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Hector Bellerin and Laurent Koscielny completely.
Given what happened to the senior players who did feature, perhaps he should have rested more.
Into the squad came youngsters Alex Iwobi, Glen Kamara, Krystian Bielik, Ishmael Bennacer and Ben Sheaf while Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Joel Campbell were also handed a rare start and we saw why. Only three who started against Everton began the game against the Owls.
That many changes is often a big risk but it seemed one the boss was prepared to take in England’s third competition.
The night got off to a bad start with the Ox pulling up with what seemed to be a hamstring injury with under four minutes on the clock forcing the boss into bringing on Theo Walcott.
Quite what the injury was we weren’t sure but that he was seen to mouth the words ‘I heard something pop’ wasn’t reassuring in the slightest, especially with Ramsey, Welbeck, Wilshere, Arteta and Rosicky already out. Sky then said that the Ox said it was a ‘tightening’ of a hamstring so either his lips were misread of the cover-up has begun.
The injury gods were gearing up their Annual Injury Crisis knowing how optimistic Gooners everywhere were feeling and they weren’t done just yet.
The game itself was a fairly sedate affair from the start with both sides probing but not managing to carve out any clear chances, other than the one Arsenal saw ruled out incorrectly for offside after 10 minutes.
That seemed to kick things off as both sides upped their physicality with the referee, the unknown Graham Scott, seemingly not bothered at all. That never usually ends well for Arsenal one way or the other. However, the extra energy that seemed to flow into the Wednesday players allowed Arsenal to find some more space to start to play their passing game as Wednesday were less measured in their challenges.
At least for a few minutes.
With 16 minutes on the clock, Walcott went down requiring treatment on his calf and Gooners everywhere couldn’t believe what they were seeing, but he came back on after brief treatment and everyone crossed their fingers it was only a kick and not a strain that he was attempting to run off.
It was and he couldn’t, and Arsenal had to call on Ishmael Bennacer.
It was unbelievable and at this point such a regular occurrence that it can no longer be considered just bad luck.
What was a pretty awful night turned to total crap with just 27 minutes on the clock when Sheffield Wednesday scored from the first shot on target of the night. Cech was rooted to the spot as Debuchy was caught up-field and the pull back found Ross Wallace unmarked on the edge of the box who found the bottom corner with a lovely strike.
A few minutes later, Hutchinson should have seen red for a two-footer on Glen Kamara but as the ref pulled out his yellow Arsenal fans were beginning to think they may as well go home. There was nothing but pain here.
Wednesday’s second came with just under 40 on the clock with a bullet header from a corner as Cech was rooted once again.
Their third came after just five minutes of the second half with some truly pathetic defending and Hutchinson, who should have been sent off in the first half, was on the goalline to take full advantage.
For Arsenal, the game had become about nothing more than pride in the shirt and there didn’t seem to be much of it on display from anyone in that butt-ugly third kit. They had a few half chances to grab a consolation but to be honest it would have been more than any of them deserved.
It was a night to forget for so many reasons. Unfortunately, the injuries picked up will mean it looms large in our minds for some time yet.
What price will the Capital One Cup exert on the rest of Arsenal’s season? There’s no time to dwell on that.
Let’s remember, no-one but Spurs care about this competition anyway.
Bring on the league! We always do well against Swansea.