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Wenger showed intent by fielding a strong team against Bradford but his players lacked ambition

Wenger showed intent by fielding a strong team against Bradford but his players lacked ambition

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Arsenal's trophy less run seems to continue as they missed out on the realistic prospect of the Capital One Cup

Arsenal have had a poor season so far in the Premier League, languishing in 7th spot behind the likes of Everton, Tottenham and West Brom. With the league title looking out of reach, the only realistic piece of silverware for the Gunners this season looked like the Capital One Cup.

The Londoners would definitely have fancied themselves in the Cup competition having reached the quarter-finals with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool all eliminated in the earlier stages. Arsene Wenger though, took no risks as he fielded a strong unit to take on lowly Bradford City. The hosts though, took a shocking lead  in the 15th minute, as Garry Thomson put away a neat volley from a quality free-kick that caused all sorts of problems for the away side.

A strong Premier League side taking on a Division 2 outfit, it wasn't surprising that Arsenal were going to dominate the possession and control the game. The Gunners did just that and dominated proceedings whilst searching for the equaliser. There were two notable attempts by Arsenal in the first half, as Francis Coquelin’s shot hit the post and then Gervinho couldn’t get on the end of a what would have been an easy tap in. The hosts came close to doubling their lead just before half-time as Nahki Wells’ shot was inches wide.

The second half saw more of the same as Arsenal had most of the ball but couldn’t penetrate the Bantams’ defence. Santi Cazorla was the standout performer for the Gunners as he looked like the only one who was close to scoring for Arsenal. The Spaniard whipped in quality balls and tested the Bradford keeper with a number of far range shots, including one that cannoned off the bar. Wenger’s side seemed to be heading for a humiliating defeat when captain Thomas Vermaelen stepped up and equalised for his side in the 87th minute of a Cazorla corner.

Vermaelen's header had dragged the game into extra-time, but the Belgian then missed a crucial penalty...

At the end of 90 minutes the teams were deadlocked at 1-1 as another thirty anxious minutes awaited Wenger. Both teams failed to find a winner in extra-time and the tie would be decided on penalties, with the winner progressing to the semi-finals. Bradford hung on somehow as Maroune Chamakh and Vermaelen’s penalty hit the post, and that was the end of the Gunners Capital One campaign. Bradford deserved their luck for a resilient performance meanwhile Arsenal’s horrendous season seems set to continue.

Wenger's decisions and the players' commitment do come into question after such a result. Olivier Giroud's injury meant Gervinho was handed the role of the lone striker. The Ivory Coast international is a genuine winger and playing him up doesn't benefit either him or the team as his abilities are not aptle channelled. The latter failed to even tap the ball into an empty net, and spurned Arsenal's best chance of the game which once again highlighted that the player in question lacks the composure a centre forward needs to possess to convert chances. Lukas Podolski started on the left, when Wenger could have easily given him the central striker's role.

The German International has successfully played upfront for his country and previous clubs. His contribution to the game was minimal, as he continued his trend of drifting out of games. Next in line was Podolski's compatriot, Per Mertesacker. The tall German was simply out-muscled by the opposition and failed to win headers on numerous occasions despite his towering presence. Aaron Ramsey is not that quick and sharp as he was before his career-threatening injury. The Welshman was unable to make penetrating runs through the flanks and never looked comfortable on the ball.

He could have been given a more central role with Mikel Arteta not featuring, but he was once again deployed on the wings. The only positive Wenger could take out of this game would be Jack Wilshere's performance. He was simply majestic as he threaded neat passes and tried his best to win the game for the Gunners. Wilshere seems to be getting back to his prime and looks a more mature and complete player now.

Is Wenger's reign heading towards an end...

The Emirates’ trophy cabinet is just a puff of dust after the Gunners have failed to win silverware in the past seven seasons. The closest they had come was a Capital One Cup final (formerly known as Carling Cup) against Birmingham, where they went down 2-1. With the league looking out of reach and considering the depth and quality of the squad, the Capital One Cup looked like the only piece of silverware within Arsenal’s reach.

Wenger made no mistake in fielding a powerful line up, but a lack of ambition and drive coupled with bad luck has led to the North London club being ousted from the Competition. Could it be the beginning of the end of Wenger’s era, only time will tell, but for now the Gunners simply have to pick themselves up from this slump. Arsenal are desperate for a trophy to lift the spirits at the Emirates, but it looks like they will have to continue trophyless for yet another season.

 

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