Football

Sutton: Wenger's arrogance is beyond belief

Former Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea striker Chris Sutton has slammed Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger after the FA holders lost 4-2 at second-tier Nottingham Forest yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Wenger made wholesale changes to the side that drew 2-2 with Chelsea during the week, a move that drew stinging criticism from Sutton, who did not mince his words when speaking to BBC Radio 5 live.

Sutton said: "The emphasis has to be on playing a strong side in the cup games.

"You can blood a couple of youngsters, but make sure you have big hitters on the bench.

"It is arrogance beyond belief from Arsene Wenger.

"If you knew the game was going to be difficult, why would you not pick your strongest team?

"He has prioritised the League Cup over the FA Cup.

"Wenger has taken Nottingham Forest too lightly.

"He has to carry the can for that. Arsenal are regressing under Wenger."

Wenger, however, defended his decision, pointing out that there were still plenty of old heads in the starting XI, such as Theo Walcott, Per Mertesacker, Danny Welbeck, Mathieu Debuchy and David Ospina.

SELECTION QUESTIONS

He said: "When you don't win, the selection is always questioned.

"I believe we had an experienced team - eight or nine internationals.

"It would be easy to think that was the problem."

Even with many first-choice names absent, it was alarming to see Arsenal outplayed by a callow Championship side.

Arsenal defender Mertesacker accused his teammates of playing like they did not want to defend the FA Cup.

"You couldn't see that we really wanted to defend it," Reuters reported the German as saying.

"This round is always the toughest. You face a Championship side away and you need to be ready, but for the majority of the game, we were not."

Two goals from American Eric Lichaj before the break and penalties by Ben Brereton and Kieran Dowell in the second half condemned Arsenal to their earliest exit since 1995/96.

Mertesacker had equalised after Lichaj's early opener but Arsenal were subsequently overwhelmed by a side 14th in the Championship.

"The manager made a lot of changes, gave a lot of trust to players who haven't played a lot recently and I don't think anybody justified their selection today," he said.

"That sums it up. In the second half, there was a little bit more spirit from ourselves, but in the duels you could see that they outbattled us."

Football