Owls of derision for Gunners as Wednesday roll back the years
Sheff Wed 3 Arsenal 0
Published 28/10/2015 | 02:30
The injuries were bad enough, but the humiliation for Arsene Wenger was even worse as Sheffield Wednesday inflicted a Capital One Cup hammering on Arsenal at Hillsborough.
Just a week after claiming the scalp of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, the potent cocktail of complacency and lethargy caused Arsenal's old frailties to return against a Championship team possessing the hunger and heart which Wenger's players lacked from one to 11.
And to cap a bad night, one which ensures Wenger's wait for a first League Cup will go on for another year, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott both limped out of the game early in the first half with muscle injuries.
But Arsenal's misery was down to Wednesday's immense performance and their victory, secured by goals from Ross Wallace, Lucas Joao and Sam Hutchinson, was one which will live long in the memory of a famous old club.
Wednesday may have plumbed the depths of the third tier since Arsenal last visited Hillsborough, in January 2000, but their recent resurgence under Carlos Carvalhal ensured that Wenger selected a suitably strong team to take on the Yorkshire outfit.
There were full debuts for teenagers Glen Kamara and Alex Iwobi, but there was no lack of experience elsewhere in Wenger's team, with even the rarely-used Joel Campbell boasting Champions League and World Cup action on his CV.
But an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions, including a 1-0 victory at Newcastle in the last round, has put Wednesday within touching distance of the Championship play-offs and the home team also had history on their side.
Not since Ian Wright scored in a 1-0 win here in August 1993 had Arsenal won at Hillsborough and that result was a rare success at this ground, with the Gunners having lost on nine of their last 16 visits.
The most recent defeat, in September 1998, is not remembered for Lee Briscoe's late winner, however, but more for the moment of madness when Wednesday's Paolo di Canio shoved referee Paul Alcock to the ground after being sent off for scuffling with Martin Keown.
So these two clubs certainly had history, including Arsenal's cup final double against Wednesday in 1993, to update in this fourth-round tie.
And while Wednesday's vibrant and tenacious approach, which was rewarded with Wallace's opener after 27 minutes, was an unwanted irritant for Wenger, the loss of both Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott to injury was perhaps of even greater concern.
The two England players both seemed to limp out of the game with muscle injuries after fewer than 10 minutes on the pitch.
Oxlade-Chamberlain succumbed to a hamstring problem inside five minutes and Walcott, his replacement, was hit by a calf strain 10 minutes after replacing the midfielder.
It may have simply been an unfortunate coincidence, but when two players with chequered fitness records suffer muscle injuries in the early stages of games, the intensity of their warm-up must surely be questioned.
Initially, the setback did not knock Arsenal off their stride, but despite the presence of Olivier Giroud up front for the visitors, Wednesday were given little to worry about.
And after holding Arsenal for almost half an hour, the home side deservedly took the lead when Wallace struck a stunning goal past Petr Cech.
Having won the ball in midfield, Barry Bannan threaded a left-foot pass for full-back Daniel Pudil, whose pull-back found Wallace just inside the penalty area. It was the perfect delivery and Wallace gave it the finish it deserved by stroking a left-foot effort beyond Cech from 18 yards.
Buoyed by the goal, and the raucous backing of a virtually full Hillsborough, Wednesday immediately chased a second. Wallace sent a 25-yard free-kick narrowly wide and Cech saved well from Jeremy Helan at the near post before Joao doubled the home side's lead after 40 minutes.
Once again Wallace was involved, the Scot picking out the centre-forward with a floated cross from the left.
And despite the presence of the towering Per Mertesacker, Joao outjumped the Arsenal defence to direct a bullet header beyond Cech.
Two-nil down and having already lost two key players to injury, Arsenal were facing a true test of their resolve, but it was hardly an irretrievable situation.
Yet the urgency which should have been a must from Wenger's players from the first kick of the second half never materialised.
Every loose ball was won by a blue-and-white striped shirt and Wednesday were more terriers than owls.
But the next goal would be crucial to the game. An Arsenal strike would heap immense pressure on the home side, while a third for Wednesday would push Wenger's players over the edge.
Unsurprisingly, it was Arsenal who conceded and, once again, their failure to defend a cross from the left proved their downfall.
Bannan, who had attempted to beat Cech from 45 yards two minutes into the second half, was the instigator for the goal, with his free-kick from the left picking out Tom Lees at the far post.
In what seemed a well-executed training ground move, Lees then diverted the ball back across goal for Sam Hutchinson to bundle the ball into the net from close range.
Hutchinson simply wanted it more and displayed greater desire than anyone in a blue-and-turquoise shirt to get on the end of the cross. The Kop erupted and Hillsborough sensed a famous victory, but Wednesday kept their foot on the pedal, with Joao inches wide from making it 4-0 with a header from another Bannan cross.
By the time Mertesacker forced a reflex save from Joe Wildsmith with a far-post header on 70 minutes, the game was up for Arsenal. Wenger's team were hopeless and complacent and Wednesday gave them everything they deserved. (© Daily Telegraph, London)