As soon as the starting eleven teams were announced, one felt Arsenal could come fire blazing here, and so it proved – Arsene Wenger’s first ever third-round defeat. Forest are fully deserving of their win, even if they did have a slice of luck with that last Dowell penalty.
Arsenal centre-backs looked very shambolic. Arsenal had their second string out, but there was over 600 Premier League appearances between the XI that Wenger started with, this was not an inexperienced side. They were booed off by their own fans. I suspect that is the last time we see Walcott in an Arsenal shirt.
I wonder what Wenger thinks of those referee decisions. Remarkable that he didn’t have senior, game-changing players on the bench. It’s one thing resting players, it’s quite another leaving yourself up a creek without a paddle in reserve.
Forest were immense. Ben Brereton, man of the match, ran Mertesacker and Holding ragged. Smith had an excellent day in goal, the Welbeck clanger aside, saving twice from Nketiah. Cash and Osborn never gave Elneny and Willock a second of time to settle in midfield.
Dowell showed glimpses of some frightening talent, the boy has one magical left foot. Forest saw out the game with great maturity, despite being down to 10 men.
Lichaj, another man-of-the-match contendor, was brilliant, scoring twice – including a goal for the ages, looping one into the top corner just before half time. But he was also solid at the back, organising his younger counter-parts well.
“My wife said she would let me have a dog if I scored a hat-trick this year”, says Lichaj in his post-match interview. “But Kieran [Dowell] wouldn’t let me have the last penalty. He told me to go away.”