Sometimes you have to roll your sleeves up and make some big unpopular calls. Arteta is about to have to do some of that. The Everton result was not par the course this season, that was a throwback to December last season. The levels were shocking. The performance was incoherent. It was a throwback to the hell days of late Emery and Wenger.
Gutless, insipid, unfocused, meek… the list of unpleasant descriptors could go on for days.
Arsenal did what is true to our recent history. We rolled up the team bus and said, ‘Rafa, I hear you have a problem, may we assist you?’
Our team is better than that. There was no excuse for that level of mediocrity. We let the situation happen to us and there isn’t a specific place to point a finger… because all of it was shite.
You could pick on the starting 11 and say that Thomas Partey shouldn’t have started and he’s been 4 out of 10 dreaful by his own account. You could say it was too soon for Tierney. You could say Xhaka wasn’t fit. You could say Lacazette up front on his own is usually not great. You could list issues with every single player that started that game and you’d be right, because it was that bad.
The biggest issue for me here was that we can all take a loss. But that was more than a loss. That was a dereliction of duty.
At a base level, that type of performance should be so far beyond us right now.
Arteta has the players for a week at a time. They are all fresher than our rivals. How can he send them out so mentally weak?
There are levels in the Premier League. Our lows simply cannot be that low. It was so, so poor.
What I can’t fathom is how things can fly off the rails so badly. That was Everton. The team with the worst form across ALL UK divisions. They were shit. We simply have to be holding our players to higher standard.
Then there’s the players.
If it wasn’t obvious, Auba has not been behaving like a captain this week. He was benched. Eddie was picked ahead of him from the bench. That’s how bad he’s been. I can sit here and debate the merits of his football contribution, but why are we here debating his behaviour again? He’s not a leader, he’s a precious baby.
Lacazette, I love him, but that was the performance of a player who knows he’s out there looking for a new deal. Where was the fight? Where was the contribution to the team he’s been giving? He was painfully nothing.
Thomas Partey, our big man in midfield, was absolutely diabolical (again). He played in one of the most ruthlessly disciplined systems in world football. He was great. He comes to Arsenal, we give him more freedom… and he’s giving away possession from a throw in under no pressure. It is wildly unacceptable how awful he’s been.
How about Ben White? £55m. The vision of what a defender could be. Makes line-breaking runs for 30 yards, then passes 3 yards to whoever is next to him. Defensively, he was a mess. Why was he standing off like a frightened rabbit? He wasn’t doing that at Leeds. Not good enough. He needs to get better, yesterday.
I don’t want to go there… but Bukayo ain’t been right since he came back from the Euros. Another anonymous performance from him out wide. He’s barely showing for the ball. His confidence is shot. He looks tired. It’s very worrying.
Things were so bad we’ve got the Pepe-Ultras out suggesting he’d be the difference. No people. He’s had his chances. Eddie missing from one yard was terrible, but at least he was there showing for it (created 3 chances). What was the counterpoint? Auba. Threaded in by Eddie, missed the sort of chance Auba of old scores with his eyes shut.
We could talk about Mike Dean and his shocking officiating, but it’s not worth it, we put that result on ourselves. It was the worst performance under Arteta to date, and we’ve had some bad one’s.
We can’t stew on it though. It feels like a catastrophe because in its own way. It was an bad performance addict having a relapse. That was old Arsenal. The question is… can we deal with it? Can we show bravery? Can we bounce back?
There’s not really a choice.
Southampton is a must-win.
West Ham is a must-win.
Leeds away is a must-win.
Norwich away is a must-win.
Wolves is a must-win.
Do I think we win all those games? I don’t think so. We’ve gone from looking robust-ish, to looking like the start of another death-spiral is incoming.
There’s no defence for it.
These are his players.
He prepares them.
He coaches them.
He motivates them.
We can all take a loss, but it has to be glorious failure, it has to look sexy in places… not like what we saw today.
Arteta has to own it. When you staff the players yourself, it’s you, regardless of how bad they are.
We live in a world of extremes. The currency of the internet is outrage. People love to live in misery. The season isn’t over, we could still claw something back… but the biggest worry is Arteta is not shaking out patterns of play that would indicate there truly is a change in culture. Last night wasn’t about the lack of a striker. It was about sending a team out that lacked focus, fight, and the edge to find a way.
This moment cannot blow out into another December drama. There is too much riding on a Top 4-able season. He needs to find a solution fast, because time waits for no one.
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