© Photo by (unknown).
The story might be new but the narrative isn’t. Cup upsets have been the bread and butter of English football since birth and, whilst they have become less common place, they are almost always down to the bigger club fielding a weakened side in more recent times. When you combine this with an in-form team who gone seven matches unbeaten you have a simple recipe for a cup upset. Step forward Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
Let’s discount the fact that Sheffield Wednesday turned over Newcastle United in the last round, after all such a feat is common place for any Championship team looking to progress to the later stages of the Capital One Cup. More impressive has been their league form. The relatively unknown manager Carlos Carvahal, who has managed 15 clubs in 17 years, has revived optimism levels in one of half this proud northern city. Carvahal’s approach blends a mix of footballing theory (he has published two coaching manuals and has a degree in Sports Science), raw pragmatism in the form of constant rotation of players and the added ingredient of entertaining, attacking football. The results were slow to come at first, with a poor start to the season resulting in just one victory from the opening seven games, but since then Sheffield Wednesday have been on fire. Overall, 12 players have now scored this season and, perhaps more tellingly, Carvahal had 29 fit players to pick from for his previous 2 games. Put simply, his players (which include 11 new recruits since the start of the season, including the big money signing of Lucas Jao for £3m) want to play for him.
In contrast, Arsenal were on a hiding to nothing from the offset. A weakened side featuring no less than nine changes from the weekend including debuts for Alex Iwobi and Glen Kamara suggests that Wenger thought this would be an easy ride. Without the benefit of hindsight that was a grave miscalculation given Wednesday’s form, although doubtless Wenger will point to the combined injuries to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott as rationale for his strategy. Hence why, when the goals came, they were of no surprise. Wednesday could easily have taken the lead before Wallace slotted home from a Pudil centre, who had far too much time and space on the ball. The second was a well-taken short corner, with Wallace now the provider for the impressive Jao who rose almost unchallenged 8 yards out. The final nail in the coffin for Wenger came from the equally impressive Hutchison who bundled the ball over unmarked from 4 yards out.
Arsenal will console themselves with being left to focus on their successful start to their Premier League season, combined with more recent successes in the Champions League – most notably against Bayern Munich last week. However, their growing injury list is a real concern with Ramsey, Wellbeck and Arteta all out of contention against Swansea and Tottenham in the league. Wednesday now will look to build further with not only a quarter final Capital One Cup appearance upcoming but also the real prospect of a concerted promotion push.