Arsenal need to get used to results such as the one against Crystal Palace.
Arsenal had seemingly turned a corner with recent results, that being inferred since beating Chelsea. Crystal Palace proved otherwise, and fans need to get familiar with such results considering the state Arsenal are in.
Mikel Arteta is doing a rebuilding job, make no mistake, and a job that takes time will deliver poor results like the one last night. While the Gunners weren’t as bad as had been during the wretched period of November and December, they were nonetheless lethargic and unable to split open the low block that Palace deployed.
Part of this has to do with the fact that the rebuild phase is barely in its infancy. Arsenal are still extremely dependent on specific individuals. When they are not on song, victories are more elusive than other, less desired outcomes.
Take the case of Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka. Palace were wise in making the game physical for both of them, and as a result, neither delivered the performances we have been accustomed to in recent weeks. On a side note, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang no longer scoring the clutch goals he once did. That’s its own concern.
Kieran Tierney was left out as a precaution, and how much Arsenal missed him was evident. Ainsley Maitland-Niles isn’t a natural fit for the role – he’s right-footed for starters – and hence wasn’t the potent threat on the left that Tierney has been.
With Sead Kolasinac likely to depart permanently, an able deputy for him has to be targeted. Whether we can acquire one of the requisite quality and who is willing to accept such a backup role is a perilous task in the winter window, let alone on a good day.
There is clearly a lesson to be learnt here. These players will have bad games or simply miss the mark. When that happens, others need to take the responsibility. It was disappointing then that neither of Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette or Hector Bellerin were able to assume that role against Palace’s solid setup.
Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos were ineffective in providing creativity from deep, failing at their chance to stake a claim to partner Thomas Partey, even if Xhaka was superb defensively and Ceballos started strongly.
The next stage of this rebuild should then be to have players who are willing to take responsibility and have the ability to single-handedly win matches: to be the next Aaron Ramsey or Alexis Sanchez. Those are the players Arteta should look for both within the squad and in transfer targets, because for now there are only a handful – Saka and Kieran Tierney spring to mind.
There is an urge for cautious optimism when we’re winning and the need for an acceptance of the scope of the rebuild when we don’t. Making Arsenal competitive again, for more than just brief spells in matches, will take time and patience. Until then, get familiar with results like this.