LONDON (Reuters) - Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker accused his team mates of playing like they did not want to defend the FA Cup after the holders lost 4-2 at second-tier Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
Manager Arsene Wenger made wholesale changes to the side that drew with Chelsea during the week but even with many first-choice names absent it was alarming to see Arsenal outplayed by a callow Championship side.
“You couldn’t see that we really wanted to defend it,” the German said. “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 after it condemned Arsenal to their earliest exit since the 1995-96 season.
Mertesacker had equalised Lichaj’s early header but Arsenal were 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 I think. In the second half there was a little bit more spirit from ourselves, but in the duels you could see that they out-battled us.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Greg Stutchbury