Third-round exits in the FA Cup don’t come along very often for Arsenal.
Unless, that is, Nottingham Forest are the opponents.
Failing to transfer their improved Premier League form to the world’s oldest knockout competition, Arsenal were beaten 1-0 by second-tier Forest yesterday in the second big shock of the third round – the stage where top-flight clubs enter the draw.
It’s only the second time in 26 seasons that Arsenal has fallen at the first hurdle. Forest were responsible for the other occasion, too, in 2018.
“We were not good enough,” Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said, “and we have to apologise for it.”
Tottenham and Liverpool avoided the same fate as Arsenal, launching comebacks after falling behind at home to third-tier opponents. Tottenham beat Morecambe 3-1 and Liverpool won 4-1 against Shrewsbury.
By conceding an 83rd-minute goal to substitute Lewis Grabban at the City Ground, Arsenal became the highest-ranked casualty of this season’s FA Cup.
So inept was Arsenal’s display that Arteta’s team failed to have a shot on target against Forest, former European champions who have fallen on hard times since the turn of the century and are ninth in the Championship.
“It’s brilliant to get through, and I hope the players now really believe in what we’re doing,” said Forest manager Steve Cooper, who is looking to lead the team back to the Premier League to play top-flight football for the first time since 1999.
A little bit of luck – or maybe it was pinpoint precision – proved crucial in Tottenham’s turnaround against Morecambe.
With his team trailing 1-0 after 73 minutes, Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks sent in a free kick from near the corner flag on the left wing and the ball flew over everyone and into the top corner.
Substitutes Lucas Moura and Harry Kane added further goals in the final five minutes for Spurs, who denied Morecambe a place in the fourth round for the first time in their 101-year history.
Liverpool started their comeback against Shrewsbury much earlier, equalising seven minutes after going behind in the 27th.
Kaide Gordon, one of five academy players handed a start in a youthful Liverpool line-up, became the second-youngest scorer in the club’s history – at 17 years and 96 days – with a coolly taken goal for 1-1 before Fabinho scored either side of a cheeky back-heel goal from fellow Brazilian Roberto Firmino, who came on as a substitute.