Double injury concern as Arsenal are hammered at Sheffield Wednesday
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Sheffield Wednesday 3 Arsenal 0
Arsenal were on the end of a big defeat to rampant Wednesday as two of their England internationals suffered worrying injuries in the Capital One Cup.
The Gunners saw Theo Walcott replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain after only two minutes – before Walcott himself was subbed on 19 minutes – leaving the emphatic loss to the blue and white half of the Steel City the least of manager Arsene Wenger’s concerns.
The pre-match talk was of Arsenal’s two Wembley victories over the Owls back in 1993 – but the only thing Wednesday-ites had on their mind was showing the world they are on an upward trajectory towards the top division after their travails of the intervening years.
The passionate start saw Oxlade-Chamberlain subbed for fellow Three Lions star Walcott after only 120 seconds.
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Arsenal – in a third kit that can best be described as liquorice allsort black and turquoise – were led by Per Mertesacker as they looked to quell Wednesday’s early intensity - roared by more than 4,000 travelling fans.
Walcott’s replacement was 18-year-old Ismael Bennacer, signed from French League Two side Arles-Avignon in the summer. It was no surprise to learn, given Arsene Wenger’s previous propensity to blood raw talent and youth in this competition that the teen is still eligible to play for the Gunners’ Under-18 side.
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But the scrappy opening was forgotten by the home support on 28 minutes following a driving run down the left flank by Daniel Pudil, who intelligently squared the ball for the onrushing Ross Wallace to hit a sweet drive from just outside the box low past Petr Cech’s right hand and into the net.
Arsenal, who had won their last four on the bounce, seemed rattled as the more experienced players looked to calm the play - leading to Alex Iwobi firing off a low shot that went the wrong side of Joe Wildsmith’s near post.
It was to prove a fleeting respite for the besieged travellers as good work down the left flank by the impressive Wallace saw a high cross fired into the box and Lucas Joao found space between the two Arsenal centre-halves and headed home powerfully to make it 2-0.
“We’re on the way back” the home crowd sang joyously - and on the evidence of the impressive first half by the hosts, the sleeping giants may well be worth a tenner of anyone’s money to be promoted to the Premier League come next May.
For Arsenal however, it was a dismal first half which saw very little of the superb movement and intensity that beat Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich - albeit with only one of the starters, Cech.
With the second half only minutes old defender Sam Hutchinson found himself in space in front of Cech and calmly slotted home on 48 minutes to make it 3-0 following a cross from the highly-rated Tom Lees.
Moments later it could have been four after a Barry Bannan cross saw the lively Joao head just over.
On 56 minutes 17-year-old Krystian Bielik, signed from Legia Warsaw in January, made his Gunners debut, coming on for the ineffective Glenn Kamara.
Arsenal tried to restore some pride on 65 minutes as Mertesacker tried his luck with a close-range header – palme away by Wildsmith who was equal to the task.
The loyal travelling fans kept singing throughout the second period to raise their heroes’ spirits, and it seemed to work as the team spent more time in the Wednesday half in the later stages, but the deficit was far too much to make up.
The hard working Barry Bannan desrved his ovation after being subbed on 75 minutes for Jose Semedo, as did the valiant Hutchinson, who hobbled off minutes later to be replaced by Lewis McGugan.
For Arsenal, however, the fans who made the long trip to Hillsborough can only hope this defeat was an aberration in an altogether promising start to the season.