So here we sit at what can only be described as the international break that Arsenal and Mikel Arteta needed badly. Or is the break unwanted now the transfer window is closed and players have been signed?
Three matches into the Premier League season Arsenal are rooted to the bottom of the table. Winless, conceding nine goals and scoring none does not exactly paint Arteta in the best of light.
However, he did have one reprieve during this horror spell and that is he had not had his full complement of players available. Games against Chelsea and Manchester City were deemed unwinnable to begin win and the loss to Brentford was the perfect storm.
While losing all three, two of which were expected, it was how the Gunners crumbled under the pressure like a piece of hastily constructed origami that is cause for concern. This is nothing new, but after almost two years into the job, surely there have to be better signs than this didn’t there?
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One could be forgiven for thinking that had Gabriel, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, Ben White, and Thomas Partey all been available for all three games, then perhaps the performances would have been a little different.
Having the caliber of those players missing and essentially the spine of the team on the sidelines gave Arteta an out; a reason as to why it couldn’t compete with the likes of Chelsea and City.
Fans still believe that the side even without its star power should have been able to at least put in a performance worthy of wearing the storied Arsenal shirt, even if the appeal has faded over the last few seasons.
What the makeshift team produced was below even the diminished standards. Although there was a seriously youthful look to it, when you play for Arsenal a standard is expected. What was produced fell short of that and by a long way – and that falls back on the manager.
Once the international break has concluded is where the pressure really mounts on the shoulders of Arteta. Games against Norwich, Burnley, Tottenham, Brighton, Crystal Palace, and Aston Villa (disregarding AFC Wimbledon in the EFL Cup) will ultimately determine if Arteta makes it past October. If indeed he gets that far.
Barring any silly injuries on international duty, Arteta will have his strongest team available in what is the most important run of fixtures he has ever faced.
While it is not necessarily about the points accrued during these games, although a minimum would ideally be 12, what fans really want to see is resounding performances.
Premier League games against Norwich and Burnley should not be the club grinding out 2-1 wins and just getting over the line. They should be commanding performances to the tune of 3-0 or 4-0 as scrappy wins will not adequately constitute improvement. They can’t be contests.
Arsenal has to get its groove back and having its first-choice centre-back pairing in Gabriel and White, the team’s most important player in Partey and new defender Takehiro Tomiyasu will certainly help.
It is no secret that Arteta is fighting what seems like a losing battle to save his job – but it is doable. Getting established players back and firing is paramount to the team’s success as we have seen the players who fill in are simply not at the level required.
After his red card against the Citizens, Granit Xhaka will miss the next three games for the Gunners and this opens up quite a tantalizing prospect: an Albert Sambi Lokonga and Partey midfield duo. Should this work – and work well – it would be hard to envisage Xhaka making it back into the first team.
Arteta has to lay it all on the line now, his job depends on it. After a horror start, he finally has his full-strength team at his disposal, something he has not had yet this season.
The time for excuses, ‘trusting the process, and not having players available is over. It is put up or shut time for the Spaniard as he embarks on a monumental challenge to prove he is the man to lead Arsenal back to where it belongs.
Is he the man to do it? We will find out soon enough.