Arsenal slumped to one of more miserable defeats in their modern history as Manchester City played them off the park and somehow only left the Etihad turf with five goals to show for it.
Three games, zero points, zero goals and -9 goal difference is the joint-worst start to a season by a club in Premier League history. Arsenal had 19% possession, faced 25 shots and registered just one. Those are all records.
If the storm clouds were already gathering, then now it’s began to rain. Mikel Arteta is scrambling for shelter, soul-searching and seeking to avoid being flooded out. Nobody is passing him an umbrella.
It’s not the result that causes incandescence. It’s the manner of defeat. Nobody gave Arsenal any hope of leaving Manchester with a draw, let alone victory, but would there be something to cling onto? A fragment of improvement to forcefully impose a mirage of salvation?
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Should Arsenal sack Mikel Arteta after he oversaw a record-breaking 6-0 Premier League defeat to Manchester City?
All the hallmarks of Arteta’s early FA Cup-winning tenure have washed away: structure, solidity, discipline and organisation. What’s left to fester is an aimlessness that signals regression, not progression.
Team selections including players the club are actively trying have contracts cancelled stroll hand in hand with the transition into a unit that operates a high line but inexplicably is stand-offish in the press. These are fallacies new to Arteta’s command that fail to evoke a sense of learning, which was the mitigation given to a manager younger than all those he stands side by side with in the Premier League.
Given time and money to rectify previous errors and mould a side to his liking, the desolation of improvement in that regard does not imply that this is a team heading sideways, let alone upwards.
Trying to piece together what futile excuses there are left to conjure, the lack of Thomas Partey, Gabriel Magalhaes and Ben White remain Arteta’s sole saviours.
This summer’s project is £130m deep and Arteta is yet to present it to his audience. Therein lies his life jacket. 21 defeats from 61 Premier League matches is a statistic that grows ever damaging, and will much be deduced from giving him a handful of matches against lesser opposition – should such terms even be acceptable in Arsenal’s case – to pad the numbers?
It’s Norwich and Burnley up next on the top-flight fixture list. How long does he get? It’s surely just that. While there will be no sacking before the Canaries on home soil, all the talk of five matches to save his job may even have been ambitious. Tottenham after those two may see the curtain drawn. Perhaps sooner.
Without an upturn in attitude, direction, organisation, commitment and structure, the project that is Arteta must be ended. What offers reassurance is that a squad has been assembled bursting with exciting talent set for similar peaks, for whoever is in charge. It’s been designed, somewhat inadvertently, to that end.
It just lacks the senior leaders. Players, and manager alike.