Arsenal captain Per Mertesacker had a scathing assessment to make of the Gunners’s display in their shock 4-2 FA Cup third round loss to Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
“It’s pretty easy. The manager made a lot of changes, gave a lot of trust to players who haven’t played a lot recently and I don’t think anybody justified their selection today. That sums it up I think,” Mertesacker told Arsenal Media after the tie.
With one eye on a EFL Cup semi-final with arch-rivals Chelsea, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger heavily rotated his side, starting mostly fringe players with prospects to face the lower-league side.
The Gunners boss was serving the first game of this three-match touchline ban and was watching the game from the stands, but he wouldn’t have been impressed with what he saw.
For the likes of Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Alex Iwobi started up front while Rob Holding, Mohamed Elneny and David Ospinia, Mathieu Debuchy and Mertesacker also featured alongside Academy players such as Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Joe Wilcock and Reiss Nelson.
Mertesacker, who equalised for the visitors in the first-half, was asked whether he felt the Gunners were simply not good enough on the night, to which he responded: “It’s difficult. In the first half we played in the park a little bit. We were not precise, especially in the final third. We couldn’t create a lot of chances. In the second half there was a little bit more spirit from ourselves, but in the duels you could see that they out-battled us and that little momentum never really changed”.
Referee Jonathan Moss awarded two penalties to the hosts in the second-half and while the holders didn’t have any complaints on the first one, converted by Forest forward Ben Brereton, the second one was scored in controversial circumstances.
For Kieran Dowell slipped while taking the spot-kick and Arsenal players were adamant that the midfielder had hit the ball twice, thereby making it an illegal attempt.
Mertesacker in particular, was incensed at the the official’s decision and protested, but to no avail. Replays suggested the towering German had a point and he was left lamenting a decision which saw the away side effectively end any hope of a comeback as he added, “Yes (it was a double contact). It would’ve been a free-kick for us. You could clearly see it, that’s why we shouted to the referee. He didn’t have any explanation and that’s on him. They obviously spoke to each other, and nobody saw the incident. David saw it and all the players did too”.