Aaron Ramsey a bright spot, Granit Xhaka struggles out of position as Arsenal exit Carabao Cup


Goals from Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli sealed Tottenham’s progression into the Carabao Cup semifinals over rivals Arsenal.
Raf Honigstein delves into Mesut Ozil’s complicated situation at Arsenal under Unai Emery and assesses what his future could hold come January.

LONDON– Arsenal were knocked out of the Carabao Cup following a 2-0 loss to North London rivals Tottenham in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Spurs’ took advantage of Arsenal’s makeshift defence by scoring on two blistering counter-attacks, with Son Heung-min netting the opener in the first half and Dele Alli doubling the lead after the break.

Aaron Ramsey came closest to scoring for Arsenal when his volleyed shot was deflected onto the post brilliantly by goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga before half-time.

Positives

Well, at least Arsenal won’t have to clog up their fixture list with two semifinal matches in January. And if there’s one time to lose to Spurs, it’s in the Carabao Cup, the competition that usually means the least to Arsenal — even though Unai Emery clearly wanted to fight for the trophy in his first season in England.

In terms of their performance, Arsenal had more than enough chances to score a goal in this one, both at 0-0 and while they chased an equaliser.

Aaron Ramsey was the brightest player going forward, delivering arguably his best performance under Emery in the first half. As good as he was, though, he was also one of several players who couldn’t find a finishing touch when the team needed it the most.

Negatives

Arsenal’s injury-ravaged defence proved a big liability again as the lack of pace in their back line was ruthlessly exploited by Tottenham.

It’s also worrying that the team’s once free-scoring forwards suddenly find themselves in the middle of a bit of a scoring drought.

Manager rating out of 10

4 — The big news before the match was that Emery had left Mesut Ozil out of the squad for “tactical reasons,” a decision that will surely raise more questions about the manager’s relationship with his star player. But there are other issues for Emery to sort out as well. His decision to play Granit Xhaka in central defence backfired as he was not only a liability there but the team’s central midfield also struggled without him.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Petr Cech, 5 — Playing his biggest game since losing the No. 1 spot to Bernd Leno following an injury, he was beaten by two good finishes. Can’t be blamed for the goals but also didn’t do much to impress.

DF Ainsley Maitland-Niles, 4 — Had a frustrating evening at right-back, with several wasteful deliveries after pushing forward. He’s been moved around in different positions by Emery, just as he was under Wenger, and looks a bit lost on the pitch at the moment.

DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 6 — His slip led to Spurs’ opening goal, although that was mainly bad luck. The Greece international otherwise did OK considering he had to make up for Xhaka’s deficiencies at times.

DF Granit Xhaka, 4 — Had to fill in as emergency centre-back again, which is clearly not his best position, and he seemed to fall asleep completely on Son’s goal, playing the Tottenham forward onside. His lack of pace was a clear weak point in Arsenal’s defence and Spurs did their best to exploit it.

DF Nacho Monreal, 6 — Delivered another solid performance and was a dangerous part of Arsenal’s attack going forward, but couldn’t quite deliver that final ball.

MF Lucas Torreira, 6 — The Uruguayan had a fairly quiet game as Arsenal’s midfield struggled to get a grip on the match. Seemed to miss having Xhaka as his playing partner, but brought his usual energy and ball-winning ability.

Granit Xhaka did his best but again proved on Wednesday that he should not be deployed as a centre-back.
Granit Xhaka did his best but again proved on Wednesday that he should not be deployed as a centre-back.

MF Matteo Guendouzi, 5 — Couldn’t quite impose himself on this game and looked on the light side going up against the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks. His partnership with Torreira is also lacking and Arsenal needed a more experienced central midfielder in this game.

MF Alex Iwobi, 6 — A mixed bag from Iwobi again as his quick feet caused fits for the Spurs defenders at times and he was always trying to push forward and break into the box. But, as so often is the case, the execution wasn’t nearly as good as his intentions.

MF Aaron Ramsey, 7 — Started the game extremely brightly with a couple of deft one-two combinations to create one chance for himself and another for Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Forced a great save with a good volley close to half-time but all his efforts went unrewarded, and he faded over the final 25 minutes.

MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 5 — Should have scored when played clear through on goal early on but otherwise had a bright first half and seemed to have renewed confidence after scoring a double at the weekend. Sacrificed at half-time when Emery switched formations.

FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 5 — Failed to score for the fourth game in a row since his double in the last North London derby. He decided that game almost single-handedly but couldn’t find a way to impact this one.

Substitutes

DF Laurent Koscielny, 5 — Brought on at half-time as Emery switched to a back three, but his rustiness proved costly again as he made a mess of things and played Alli onside for the second goal.

FW Alexandre Lacazette, 5 — Came off the bench again but couldn’t give the attack his usual spark — in part because he had very little service to work with.

FW Eddie Nketiah, 5 — Thrown on as a third forward with 25 minutes left after Spurs’ second goal but hardly got involved in the game.

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