When was it last this bad at Arsenal?
It is official. We may have survived the difficult end to Arsene Wenger’s reign, and made it through the dismal conclusion of Emery’s tenure, but now we have finally reached rock bottom. Our latest abject display on Sunday night condemned Arsenal to their worst ever start to a Premier League season and left the club lying 14th in the table.
There is now more pressure on the inexperienced Mikel Arteta to deliver than ever before and he must find answers quickly to not only save his job, but also our season.
Although the Wolves defeat was bad and has left us all feeling deflated, there was nothing surprising about either the performance or the outcome.
The problems that proved to be our undoing, such as the lack of quality in possession, the absence of a creative spark, lapses in concentration and abject defending have plagued this team for weeks, with little being done to fix them. As a result, we now find ourselves in the midst of a full-blown crisis and must address the frequent basic errors committed every game if we are to turn this around.
Part of the problem this season has been Arteta’s attempt to transition from a safety-first policy to something resembling his long-term ambitions. Such aspirations include the instigation of attacking phases by the centre-backs, the increased onus on the midfield to provide defensive cover and the responsibility shouldered by the wide midfielders to create chances.
These proposals could be interpreted as a brave and positive move from the manager, but judging by our pathetic performances of late, it is clear that, if his ideas have their merits, he simply does not have the players to pull them off.
There are no easy answers to our current problems, but I feel that we need to resort back to what we did well last Christmas. Back when Arteta first arrived, there was an immediate lift at Arsenal. The team quickly became more compact, the intensity of the press improved significantly and a combination of first-touch passing and movement off the ball brought us great success in the final third.
For one reason or another, these qualities have been sorely lacking this season and the team looks bereft of inspiration when on the ball.
In terms of quick-fix solutions, Arteta may be forced to return to the back-five system and once again adopt a counter-attacking approach to solidify our struggling defence. Perhaps this will also benefit our attacking play considering the pace we possess up front and our current inability to dictate games for extended periods.
It is disappointing that we have to mitigate our problems rather than build for the future, but the defensive frailties we thought had been solved just a few weeks ago have resurfaced and, given the absence of the creator the boss wants, we simply must prioritise the defence until an opportunity arises to strengthen in advanced areas
Some may believe that Arteta needs time, that we should acknowledge the mess he inherited and therefore warrant him patience to salvage the wreckage of our season. While that may be the case, it does not excuse our alarming slump in form and we can’t allow things to continue like this in the hope that one day it will all work out.
Unfortunately, time is of the essence and if results do not improve drastically before the New Year, Arteta may not get the chance to make his mark.