Arsenal fell to a fourth consecutive home defeat against Burnley on Sunday.
Sincerely, can the 19:15 kick-offs on Sunday be banished to purgatory, never to be seen again? There is no excuse for Arsenal being so woefully bland but you get the feeling this time slot is cursed.
With supporters reeling from a soul-crushing North London Derby defeat, the temporary enjoyment of the Europa League segued back into Premier League football, only this time against a side even the most critical and despondent supporters had minor hopes of claim points off.
How wrong we all were.
A first half display, that while desperately drab, saw two golden chances fall to either side, with neither Chris Wood nor Alexandre Lacazette making the most of the opportunities. Gabriel Magalhaes also came close, he too arguably finding himself in a position where he should have scored.
In need of some life being injected into the side after the break, Arteta’s words had a clear impact with the hosts looking dangerous going forward immediately after the restart, testing Nick Pope on four occasions in the opening ten minutes.
The sample size is hardly bursting at the seams, but it was some of the better football Arsenal have played in the Premier League this season.
But, of course, implosion was just round the corner. This time, it came courtesy of Granit Xhaka.
Here’s what we learned from *that*.
10 Minutes of Enjoyment
For a brief period, Arsenal looked like scoring.
As soon as the second half whistle went, there was an immediate surge towards the Burnley box, some going wide and some heading straight for goal. Willian then carelessly stood offside when he could see down the line, with heads expected to drop.
They didn’t, and instead the ten minutes after the break produced some of the better football of the season – in relation to the campaign, that is.
Lacazette actually picked up possession centrally, passes went infield instead of through their usual robotic deep-to-wide routine and Arsenal played across the box, no just either side of it. Four shots on target in that period had seized momentum.
For the first time in forever, there was a feeling of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’. Would Arsenal have won the game had Xhaka not intervened? Based on the rut Arsenal are in it’s impossible to conclude so, but if pushed for an answer you’d like to have thought so.
Whatever happens between now and the end of the season, Arteta must see sense in those central movements, they brought us the most joy on Sunday.
Arsenal Fans Get Their Wish
No Hector Bellerin or Xhaka for Wednesday’s visit of Southampton is most fans’ ideal scenario. With everyone desperate for change, and Arteta seemingly only content to do so when his hand is forced, the situation has arisen where he’s compelled to again.
Reluctant to choose his lineup on merit, the suspensions of two senior players who’ve been called to be dropped ensures there will be at least two alterations, whether the Spaniard likes it or not.
Who can come in for those two will be discussed at length by those who wanted them out in the first place, but most intriguingly is what follows.
If (it’s a big if) a positive result is achieved on Wednesday then the immediate reaction will be one of vindication from supporters who championed such changes from the rooftops.
Should the midfield look infinitely more athletic and right-back offer added cover in defensive transition as well as incision up front, then those who’d doubted Arteta may feel even he will open his eyes to a different approach.
This Isn’t Even Rock Bottom
Sunday brought with it indescribably painful emotions.In football, you get hurt. Doesn’t matter who you support, nothing will ever stay rosy forever.
As Arsenal fans, nobody can deny that we haven’t been spoiled down the years. Most sides dream of regular Champions League outings, being involved in title challenges, winning trophies, holding incredible Premier League records and watching on as some of the best players this country has seen have donned the red and white.
It’s our time to suffer. Shambolic recruitment, a panoply of bad decisions from top to bottom and an average set of players are just three of the reasons Arsenal find themselves where they are.
Does that mean the pain isn’t justified? Of course not. This isn’t just poor form though, this is full-blown crisis. Even rivals supporters must feel a degree of pity.
However, the road ahead will continue to wind before it straightens out. The sooner we accept that, the better we’ll be for it.
We may beat Southampton, we may fall to another historic defeat. Who knows. All we can do is prepare ourselves as best we can. Until this squad is stripped for parts and new ones are found, we could, and may very well, sink further.