By Josh James
For only the second time in the past 26 years, we have failed to make it past the third round of the FA Cup - and once again Nottingham Forest – as they were in 2018 - were our nemeses.
In truth we can have few complaints after a very lacklustre performance at the City Ground.
We were far from our best, didn't create much, and were eventually punished by a late Lewis Grabban goal.
The first half was a particularly drab affair, with neither side managing a shot on target.
Eddie Nketiah and Sambi Lokonga both had shots deflected wide from outside the box, but the usual fluency and speed of movement we had seen in the past few weeks just wasn't there.
In an attempt to change things, Mikel Arteta brought on Kieran Tierney for Nuno Tavares after just half an hour. Tierney was clearly sent on with instructions to get forward, but still our creativity was lacking before the half-time whistle.
The performance needed to improve after the restart, but it was the hosts who had the first chance of the second period - Leno made a fine save from Philip Zinckernagel's shot after Brennan Johnson had raced away on the right flank.
Nketiah headed wide from Bukayo Saka's cross when well placed at the far post, before Leno was called in to action again, stretching to turn away James Garner's free-kick.
Nketiah tried his luck again after wriggling free inside the box, but he fired over from a difficult angle.
It was difficult to see where a breakthrough would come from, but as the game entered the final ten minutes it was the hosts who scored the only goal. Lewis Grabban - who had only been on the pitch for 15 minutes - converted well at the far post from Ryan Yates' cross.
We had just under ten minutes to get the goal that would keep us in the FA Cup.
But it wasn't to be, and we bowed out of the competition without mustering a shot on target.
Mikel Arteta made seven changes from the side that narrowly lost to Manchester City on New Year's Day.
There was a first ever start for 18-year-old midfielder Charlie Patino, after his goalscoring substitute appearance in the Carabao Cup last month. He was alongside Sambi Lokonga, with Thomas Partey having departed for the Africa Cup of Nations.
Bernd Leno returned in goal, behind a back four of Cedric Soares, Nuno Tavares, Ben White and captain Rob Holding. Gabriel serves a one-match suspension.
Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli were either side of Eddie Nkeitah, with Martin Odegaard as the No. 10.
The bench featured three potential debutants: striker Mika Biereth, midfielder Salah-Eddine Oulad M'hand and winger Omari Hutchinson - all 18 years old.
WHAT IT MEANS
It leaves us with just two competitions to focus on for the rest of the season: the Premier League and the Carabao Cup - the latter resumes on Thursday.
We switch focus to the Carabao Cup on Thursday, when we head to Anfield for the first leg of the semi-final. The second leg, postponed from last week, will take place the following Thursday at the Emirates.
But in between those two games we make the short trip to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium next Sunday afternoon, with three valuable Premier League points up for grabs in the north London derby.
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