Arsenal are a wounded animal on its last legs.
The situation prior to Elland Road was already bleak. Arsenal, feeling the strain of the international break on a previously well-stocked squad, travelled to Yorkshire weakened by more than outside forces.
Mikel Arteta‘s team are struggling, victims of their own downfall with no functioning plan of how to do the bare necessity of football: score goals. A far greater defensive unit than ten months ago, an admittedly tough stance to take having conceded 25 shots to Leeds, one half of the ‘Football 101’ is fine-tuned.
Solving what happens beyond the halfway line remains elusive. In an effort to turn the tide, bold choices were made to the team on Sunday to decipher that unintelligible code. In minuscule, ever so briefly segments there were signs of the 4-2-3-1 working. It was never going to bear fruit immediately, yet Arsenal are still streaks away from attacking potency.
While imperative, Arsenal have more issues to concern themselves with.
Mohamed Elneny and Sead Kolasinac are both due to miss the midweek trip to Norway, Thomas Partey remains sidelined with a thigh concern, Pablo Mari and Calum Chambers are not at full match fitness, Kieran Tierney is been overworked, Willian was forced off at half-time against Leeds, Nicolas Pepe will miss three matches, we’ve still no Gabriel Martinelli and, most worrying of all, Bukayo Saka suffered an injury Arteta didn’t appear confident about.
Thin in midfield, limp upfront and downtrodden all over, it will be a real test of character for this squad to band together for the coming fixtures.
Europa League action will be a welcome distraction. While normally it’d be a chance for the ‘B’ team to have their say, the squad is so depleted that ideally, we’ll see a wealth of youngsters play and more closely resemble a ‘C’ team.
Qualification is not assured, but there are key players who must be rested for fear of an even heftier absentee list.
Arsenal need their internal leaders – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, David Luiz and Granit Xhaka – to drag their team through the mud. We can’t create chances but we can’t even begin to contemplate winning matches without absolute unity.
Grinding out a draw, however fortuitously, may have inspired. While Arteta continues to tinker, the players must demonstrate their fight. It’s Wolves and Tottenham up next in the Premier League, they’ll need it.