An unwelcome record bares down on Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal as The Gunners lose three on the bounce at home in the top tier of English football for the first time since 1908.
Mikel Arteta gave his predecessor, Unai Emery, the perfect tribute 366 days after his dismissal by the Arsenal board. Arteta’s Arsenal marked the anniversary with an Emery-esque performance, another pick from the portfolio of the Spaniard’s final days.
Replicating the 2019 lacklustre performances against the likes of Southampton and Frankfurt, the players looked disinterested, whilst Arteta looked on disgusted.
Nuno’s wolf-pack hunted down Arsenal for 100 minutes, on high press mode, despite losing one of their most potent members in the early stages at the Emirates. Two of the most experienced members of the respective teams were forced to exit the field of play as Raul Jimenez and David Luiz clashed heads before the 20-minute-mark from Willian’s well-taken corner.
The Brazilian veteran soldiered on until half time, whilst Jimenez was rushed to a nearby London hospital as concussion precautions were put in place by both teams.
In the same game in which Unai Emery stripped Granit Xhaka of the captaincy for reacting to the crowd jeering him off the pitch, defenders David Luiz and Sokratis both netted.
On Sunday night, there was a sense of Déjà Vu as with Gabriel scoring and Arsenal going on to lose the game. With hindsight, it is essential to recognise that the players would have received the same reaction last night as they walked down the tunnel at the full-time whistle, had the supporters been invited in for Sunday’s fixture. In many ways, it is better that they weren’t.
So how did the night unfold? Neto netted, Gabriel responded with a defensive header and then Podence danced past the Arsenal backline on the Emirates carpet to secure all three points for the visitors before they headed back to the Midlands.
At the weekend, Arteta’s position as Arsenal manager was questioned once again, as it was a synonymous display to that of four weeks ago against Aston Villa. Arsenal would be expected to beat Wolves with the line-up that Arteta fielded last night, so you have to wonder whether the problem is much bigger than just the manager or the players deployed.
Questions continued to be fired at Arteta about the omission of Mesut Ozil from the Arsenal team in the manager’s customary post-match press conference. The questions became more vigorous towards the Arsenal boss as the decision to exclude Ozil seems more bewildering.
Arteta spoke weeks ago about the exclusion of Ozil from the Premier League and Europa League squads – and he was very clear to admit his dismissal from the selection was down to ‘footballing reasons’ and ‘footballing reasons’ only.
Admittedly, from a fan’s perspective, it is clear that Ozil being left out for ‘footballing reasons’ is a lie and Arteta is being made to stand up on behalf of the Arsenal board and defend their decision to exclude Ozil for non-footballing reasons.
Considering Arsenal are suffering from a lack of clear-cut chances due to a weak midfield, it would simply be a naive to think that Arsenal are a more balanced team without our most prolific number 10 of the ‘Emirates Era’. Therefore, his hiatus in the squad cannot be down to ‘footballing reasons’ or ‘tactical reasons’ as stated by the Arsenal manager.
Ultimately, this furtiveness is a ‘seen before’ circumstance for supporters of Arsenal. Vinai Venkatesham and Edu Gaspar stated in the summer that the plan to restructure the football club and release Raul Sanllehi was down to the club being more closely connected to the fanbase.
Even though sport and politics are meant to be kept apart, at Arsenal it feels very political. So much promised, yet so little delivered.
Arsenal fans are tired and emotionally drained of getting their hopes up and having them dashed time and time again. The blame can be easily put on the one person who is scapegoated, but considering the consistency of bad performances, it is certainly not down to that one sorrowed soul but instead, it is a part of a bigger picture hidden from the fans.
Eight chances created by the home side but only one clear cut chance is a concerning matter, and surely the Arsenal board need to rethink their strategy before the next squad submission in early February.
Nicolas Pepe has created 41 chances since August 2019, with Mesut Ozil creating 38 chances in the same time period despite being out of the picture for an entire season.
From the highs last season of victories against Liverpool in the Premier League, as well as Manchester City and Chelsea en-route to a 14th victory in the FA Cup Final, to the lows this season, losing five out of ten Premier League games, it has to be said we have dropped off so much from the team that had a clear identity under Arteta and were so successful towards the back end of last season.
As a fanbase, we are being forced to accept this constant mediocracy in the winter months where the players’ form drops, confidence shatters, and bad vibes emerge.
The government have decided to open stadiums again in Tier 1 and Tier 2 zones, with The Emirates being no exception. On Thursday night, for the first time since the 7th of March, the turnstiles will rotate again for a European fixture in which Arteta will be trialling more of Hale End’s finest.
But also, for the lucky thousands who relentlessly refreshed the club’s official website on Saturday morning for tickets, live football will return. The Hale End masterclass, which the fans have become accustomed to, may well be followed, at the weekend, by the now customary Premier League disappointments, which will hurt more than ever against Mourinho’s Tottenham.
With this North London Derby looming, if the Spaniard can find a way to deploy his ammunition and get Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang firing like he was during the 2019/20 season, perhaps a different result is on the cards.
But with the Gabonese international lacking confidence, these are worrying times for supporters of the football club.