Arsenal teens get the blame for Sheffield Wednesday defeat
Gunners out of the League Cup after lacklustre performance against Championship side at rocking Hillsborough
Sheffield Wednesday 3 Arsenal 0.
Arsene Wenger has never won the League Cup and his grim record in the competition continued against Sheffield Wednesday as his young Arsenal team, weakened by more injuries to senior players on the night, was overpowered at Hillsborough.
Wenger ended up handing senior debuts to four players as Glen Kamara and Alex Iwobi were joined from the bench by Ismael Bennacer and Krystian Bielik. And despite the presence of experienced heads including Petr Cech, Per Mertesacker, Mathieu Flamini and Olivier Giroud the Gunners lacked the know-how and firepower to see off Wednesday, who revelled in the occasion in front of their biggest crowd for three-and-a-half years.
Arsenal's plans began to unravel within minutes, when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, in the role of playmaker, was forced off. Minutes later disaster struck as his replacement Theo Walcott suffered a similar fate. Both players were brung low by muscle problems, raising more questions about Arsenal's suspect injury record.
With the visitors off their stride, Wednesday took the lead after 28 minutes through Ross Wallace, who swept the ball home from 18 yards following a fine move. The Gunners failed to respond and ten minutes later Wallace provided a cross for Lucas Joao to head home.
There was worse to come in the second half when Sam Hutchinson bundled the ball home for a third.
Even that failed to stir Arsenal into life as the Gunners, who mustered only two shots on target all game, limped out of the competition with a whimper.
Wenger, "who fielded a starting line-up comprising of ten international players, was left bewildered by his side's display as they succumbed to an embarrassing defeat at Hillsborough", reports The Times.
It was the Arsenal midfield, featuring two 19-year-olds in Kamara and Iwobi, plus 17-year-old Bennacer, that took the blame as they "failed to deal with the intensity and relentless nature of their opponents", adds the paper. "And while it appears rather harsh to blame the result solely on their performances, Wenger claimed that the next generation of potential stars were unable to cope with the demands asked of them."
They were, he said, "not ready to play at this level". Although that observation could equally have been applied to Joel Campbell, the Costa Rican striker who proved why his first team chances have been so few and far between.