Arsenal have suffered a rare FA Cup defeat at the hands of Southampton.
Through all their struggles over the last decade, the Gunners have at least found solace in football’s oldest cup competition, going all the way in the 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2020 tournaments.
As a result, there was hope amongst Gooners that they could retain the first trophy of Mikel Arteta’s managerial career to make up for some of their wider issues in the Premier League.
Southampton 1-0 Arsenal
However, their FA Cup journey has ended earlier than expected with Southampton, who always promised to be a tough fourth round draw, dumping the Gunners out in the fourth round.
Truth be told, Ralph Hasenhuttl fielded a strong starting XI at the St. Mary’s Stadium with the likes of Danny Ings, Che Adams and James Ward-Prowse all lining up for the Saints.
Arsenal, on the other hand, shuffled the pack with Gabriel Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah, Willian and Nicolas Pepe making for a new-look attack on the south coast.
Arsenal knocked out
But Arteta’s decision to rotate only seemed to backfire with Arsenal struggling to create many concrete chances as Southampton took a first-half lead through Gabriel’s own goal.
Yes, Arsenal occasionally threatened to push the game into extra-time, but you’d be hard-pressed to say that Southampton, who currently reside within the Premier League top ten, deserved anything less.
As a result, there was no shortage of Arsenal fans frustrated with the performance on social media and there were three players bearing the brunt of that criticism in particular.
Willian, Pepe and Nketiah slammed
While, sure, no one Arsenal player could hold their head high with any great distinction, it was the displays of Willian, Nketiah and Pepe that left the sourest taste in the mouth for Gooners.
One fan penned: “Willian, Pépé & Nketiah were absolute garbage. I don’t care if it’s the cup, don’t play them again for while. Rather see more youth players get a chance.”
Another wrote: “I don’t want to see Willian, Nketiah or Pépé play for Arsenal again. Obviously they will, but rage.”
A third tweeted: “Nobody can convince me otherwise, Willian, Pepe and Nketiah should never start for Arsenal.”
A fourth uploaded: “Nketiah, Willian, Pepe… I just don’t know what to say about these three. They need to go ASAP. They are just so average, no quality whatsoever.”
Another simply put: “Willian, Pepe & Nketiah! Not good enough for the first team.”
That was followed by a similarly cruel tweet, saying: “Pepe Willian Nketiah all trash. All need to leave”
While this tweeter wrote: “Nketiah, Pepe and Willian have to go. Been given plenty of chances this season and have failed to offer much at all.”
Finally, another fumed: “How can you let Willian, Nketiah and Pepe play 90 mins and you want to win match ??? Arteta tf??”
But the criticism for those three players didn’t end there, so check out the full Twitter feed here.
Wider problems at Arsenal
While some of the tweets are a little hyperbolic, you’d struggle to defend Nketiah, Willian and Pepe – who are valued at a combined £67.5 million – for their performances because the Arsenal attack was blunt at best.
And it is worth noting that Martinelli, so often the darling of Gooners, was also pretty quiet on the south coast and it’s perhaps that anonymity that absolved him from some of the pelters.
For all the criticism that has rightfully been aimed at Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette this season, it’s hard to imagine them flopping in quite the way today’s attack did.
Either way, though, there are no second chances in the FA Cup and Arsenal will need to pile all their resources into the Premier League and Europa League to save their 2020/21 campaign.