In the aftermath of a disappointing 2-1 FA Cup defeat at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta was put on the spot by reporters and asked tough questions. How will this early exit impact his team’s title aspirations?

Tough questions for Mikel Arteta about Arsenal's progress after early FA Cup exit at Nottingham Forest

NOTTINGHAM, England (CBSNewYork) — As a manager, Mikel Arteta was instrumental in winning the FA Cup. He now needs to show that it doesn’t matter.

Arsenal’s dreadful 1-0 third-round elimination to Nottingham Forest on Sunday was exactly the kind of performance he had intended to consign to history, rife with apathy and missing the concentration and attention that their hosts had throughout. Because he failed to display the “commitment and passion” necessary, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has gone from talisman to pariah, according to Arteta. But if that’s the bar, then many of the players in this lineup may find themselves in the wilderness following tonight.

Even with the absences — which almost reached double digits due to a combination of COVID-19, injury, and African Cup of Nations absences — this seemed like a step backwards in Arteta’s objective of building a high base-level of performance from which Arsenal may regain prior glories.

In 2020, Arteta won this tournament with a succession of steadfastly driven and clinical performances, confirming a first-time manager’s tactics. Arsenal has now backed up that assertion by jumping into the Premier League’s top four with half of the season yet to play. This success has instilled real hope that they may soon be able to return to the Champions League, increasing their prominence to the point where the FA Cup becomes a sideshow rather than a defining event.

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However, this is the kind of fundamentally faulty performance that raises doubts about the quality of such advancement. They didn’t get a single shot on target, and their all-white uniform, which was a one-off as part of a knife-crime effort, was their greatest feature at the City Ground.

“First and foremost, I’m upset with the performance,” Arteta stated afterward. “Not with our attitude, but with how much purpose we have and how determined we are to affect the game and the way they play when it’s tough to play against. But [we needed] a lot more zeal, a lot more will to win at any costs in every single deed. We weren’t performing at our best today.”

It’s tough to concur with the judgement that Arsenal’s mentality was on point based on what we witnessed on the field, although Arteta was most annoyed with his team’s usage of the ball in possession. For virtually the entire first half, he chastised his centre-backs Ben White and Rob Holding for passing the ball too slowly or choosing for a basic square pass rather than igniting a more dynamic assault.

Nuno Tavares, on the other hand, received the most dreadful scolding. Djed Spence, the Forest right-back on loan from Middlesbrough and destined for the Premier League if he continues his current form, gave Tavares a terrible time, and he was replaced after only 35 minutes.


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SUNDAY, JAN. 9 • Liverpool v Shrewsbury (9 a.m. ET) • Tottenham v Morecambe (9 a.m. ET) • West Ham v Leeds (9 a.m. ET) • Hertha Berlin v Cologne (9:30 a.m. ET) • Sevilla v Getafe (10:15 a.m. ET) • Bochum v Wolfsburg (11:30 a.m. ET) • Forest v Arsenal (12:10 p.m. ET) • Alaves v Athletic (12:30 p.m. ET) • Villarreal v Atletico (3 p.m. ET)

MONDAY, JAN. 10 • Man United v Aston Villa (2:55 p.m. ET)

The absence of Granit Xhaka due to the coronavirus is sad. The engagements of Thomas Partey and Mohamed Elneny at AFCON are inopportune. As an exceptional circumstance, the decision to allow Ainsley Maitland-Niles to join Roma seems acceptable. However, the combination of all four left Arsenal vulnerable in the most combative region of the field in a typically difficult FA Cup match, something Arteta is familiar with.

“I know because I’ve been in games like that for the previous 18 years,” Arteta said. “I know how tough it is to get here, and it’s no surprise the problems you’ll encounter.” “However, when we do that, we must confront it in a new manner.”

I’d want to see what I can get out of the guys we have. I believe it is evident where we need to improve [in January], but for now, we have what we have. And we have to play with what we have.”

Arsenal has won the FA Cup 14 times, more than any other team. They did, however, make some unwelcome history: The Gunners have only lost in the third round twice in their previous 26 seasons.

The last time was in 2018, on the same pitch, in what turned out to be Arsene Wenger’s last season in command, when the Gunners were unable to halt their slide into mediocrity. It was the same downward spiral that Arteta is currently attempting to stop. Tonight, the work will seem a bit more difficult.

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