We went into London Stadium knowing that West Ham had lost three on the bounce. What’s more, we knew that Man City and Tottenham had already crashed out. One of Man U or Newcastle would also be out by evening’s end. We went into halftime down just 1-0 with Man U losing 0-2. Yes, Liverpool has advanced, but this cup was looking more and more like low-hanging fruit, and it’s a shame that we let it slip through our fingers.
We just didn’t have enough to cope with Moyes’s all-too-predictable strategy of soaking up pressure and hitting on counter-attacks. Mohammed Kudus, whom I implored Arteta to sign, was instrumental as our midfield was overrun. Jorginho was clearly not up to the task, not that he got much help from Zinchenko tucking in to try to create those overloads. Zinchenko is increasingly turning into our squad’s Alexander-Arnold. Going forward, he’s quite good and occasionally sublime. In defense, though, opponents are finding altogether too much joy in exploiting the space his inverted role creates on the wing—and that’s a problem compounded by the fact that Zinchenko is not a strong 1v1 defender.
Indeed, it was Zinchenko’s failure to deal with a long ball from long ball forward from Aguerd to Kudus, whose superb first touch bamboozled the Ukrainianv and whose second flew past Ramsdale, who hardly bathed himself in glory. From 2-0 down, it felt like there was no coming back.
To be frank, I really think Arteta dropped the ball here, if not with his Xi then with his too-late adjustments and substitutions. When we find ourselves thinking, “Moyes’s men are running rampant,” that should raise all sorts of red flags. Moyes is the mind of guy who thinks he’s living on the edge by shunning the handrail while on an escalator. Seeing that we were getting cut open too often on counters, Arteta really should have sent Rice and Tomiyasu on for the second half instead of waiting until almost the hour-mark. By the time they joined the fray, it was already all over but for the singing and shouting, and Rice had to endure a half-hour of jeers and boos. That West Ham scored a third shortly after his introduction only salted the wounds.
In the end, we can console ourselves and rationalise about how it’s “just the Carabao Cup,” a piece of silverware not really worth fighting for…but it’s silverware all the same, and our chance at winning it had grown quite a lost by halftime. In the end, to quote Arteta, “we have to use the pain on Saturday,” If he had looked past this fixture to prioritise the trip to St. James’s Park, it didn’t quite pan out. We still finished the match with Rice, Saka, Martinelli, and Ødegaard on the pitch with nothing to show for it except for maybe the fact that Ødegaard looked much livelier than he’s looked for weeks.
If this result does in fact fuel a more-furious performance when we travel north to play Newcastle, enough fury to come away with all three, then this result may have been worth it. Even if Newcastle have some injury dilemmas, even if they’ve not matched the impressive pace they set from last season, this was always going to be one of our most-difficult fixtures, highlighted by the fact that they blitzed Man U at Old Trafford (even if that is becoming quite commonplace these days).
We’re left hoping that we enough time to lick our wounds and rise to the next challenge. While it may be true that Newcastle will be without Tonali and Isak and may be without Barnes (plus a few fringe players), they showed that they still have more than enough to go into Old Trafford and thrash Ten Hag’s side. We’ll be without Smith Rowe, Partey, and Jesus (and Timber, of course). We’ll have our work cut out for us, so I hope Arteta is more prescient after this fixture than he was prepared beforehand. A win—or, to be honest, a draw—would represent a significant if not massive step forward for our tilt at the Prem title.