The League Cup for Arsenal has become a competition where Arsene Wenger can test his up and coming protégées.
We have seen some of the great past and present Gunners flourish in this competition. Both Cesc Fabregas and Jack Wilshere announced themselves by scoring their first competitive goals for the club against Wolves and Sheffield United respectively.
But surely it’s time for Wenger to take the competition more seriously and aim for more silverware, as his fringe and reserve players were outclassed by an excellent Southampton side.
The Saints came from behind to beat Arsenal 2-1 at the Emirates thanks to a thunderbolt from Nathaniel Clyne.
The visitors notched their fifth win in a row as they progressed into the last 16 against an Arsenal side containing several first team players.
Arsene Wenger selected Tomas Rosicky, Lucas Podolski, Jack Wilshere and Alexis Sanchez from the start; but this wasn’t enough in a disappointing evening for The Gunners.
In a very open game both teams had early chances; the outrushing debutant David Ospina dived at the feet of Steven Davie, while Wilshere floated a glorious ball to Rosicky who headed his effort tamely into the arms of the grateful Fraser Forster.
The deadlock was broken on the 12th minute, Alexis was brought down 25 yards out and took the resulting free kick himself. Bending a peach of a free shot into Forster’s top right corner, as the Saints keeper remained rooted to his spot. Sadly though, this was as good as it got for the home side.
On 20 minutes the poor Rosicky brought down Sadio Manic and Dusan Tadic stepped up and calmly placed his penalty down the middle to equalise.
Seven minutes before the break the visitors took the lead from a wonder strike from Clyne. The ball was header out from a corner by Calum Chambers, the Southampton full back took one touch to move the ball across his body and unleashed a fierce drive into the roof of the net from 25 yards out.
The Arsenal players were really struggling to get into the game. Podolski rarely got involved, Rosicky kept giving the ball away and Joel Campbell looked lost out wide.
These players haven’t had enough minutes on the pitch this season for them to be ready to compete against this strong Southampton side and things didn’t improve in the second half.
Sanchez, Arsenals best performer on the night, was doing his best to get things going from the front but there was little else of not in the attacking line as Southampton were happy to sit back and play on the counter.
There were very few chances for the home side against a very well organised Southampton back line. Sanchez had an effort saved after good work down the wing by Hector Bellerin and the Chilean had a free kick saved by Forster.
The saints should have wrapped things up with five minutes to go when an unmarked Graziano Pelle header over from a corner.
One of very few positive for Arsenal was the return of the injury prone Abu Diaby. Diaby was making his first start for the Arsenal first team for 556 days and he showed glimpses of why Wenger has placed so much faith in him.
The Arsenal defence showed great promise, containing three 19 year s olds and a 23 year old, there is encouragement to be had from their performances; but this isn’t enough.
Arsenal were a clear second best here and if the depth in the squad means we can’t compete on all fronts, then Wenger must change his ways.